Art: The Realist as Corn God

ARCHAIC cultural rites do survive in New York. One of them is the fertility festival. The Corn God is chosen; he reigns for a year, credited with power, laden with honors and trophies. Then, at winter solstice, he is killed. A new Corn God takes his place. This cumbersome cycle was once thought to ensure the growth of crops. Today it is mainly practiced in Manhattan's art world. Discovering—or inventing—a new Corn God every year is a basic market strategy, since art consumers, strung out on the disintegrating pluralism of American art in the...

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