Time Essay: The Decline and Fall of the Avant-Garde

ART is in bad shape. Advanced art, that is. The diagnosis: condition feeble. The prognosis: poor. The avant-garde has finally run out of steam, whether in Munich or Los Angeles, Paris or New York; the turnover of styles and theories that gave the 1960s their racketing ebullience (Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, Op, Pop and so on) has been followed by a sluggish descent into entropy. There seems to be no escape from that spiral.

Dealers continue to exhibit their pet trends as though nothing had happened, but recent art criticism has taken on a glum,...