Art: Petronius Unbound

It has not been so long since one of the juvenile leads of '60s New York art was seen, at a party, to peer at one of Alexander Liberman's painted steel sculptures and snicker, "Huh! Vogue fingernail red!" A common prejudice: for years Liberman has borne the reputation of having too much grace under too little pressure. He is accused of having a "designer's eye." Spelled out, this means that Liberman is good at reeling off elegant solutions to undemanding formal problems but has no very striking imagination of his own. Besides, he is editorial director of Conde Nast—Petronius Arbiter in...

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