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The Brooklyn Museum and the Triumph of Non-Art

In the current issue of Chronicles Thomas Fleming writes:

Surrealists, communists, and Dadaists did not merely embrace the death of meaning and civility; they positively exulted in the death of the West and everything Western. They hated Christianity, especially the Catholic Church; they hated Europe, France in particular; they hated the classics; they hated white people. By contrast they celebrated Asian religion and African culture.

Nowhere is this apparent more than in modern "art". For years, I avoided going into "hip", fashionable museums like the Tate Modern, the MOMA, and the Guggenheim where all this modernist dreck was exhibited and celebrated. The weekend before last, I decided to check out the Brooklyn Museum, an outwardly imposing and impressive structure in the neighborhood of Crown Heights, infamous as the site of a Black pogrom against Hassidic Jews in 1991.

The Brooklyn Museum turned out to be a perfect demonstration of the modernist hatred for European art, culture, and religion. To begin with, there's the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. The centerpiece of that whole shabby exhibition is The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago: a  huge table in the shape of a triangle, which represents the feminists' genital obsession (an obsession that is repeated on the plates and banners adorning this "artwork"). Every place setting is dedicated to a feminist hero: from Ishtar and Kali to Sojourner Truth and Margaret Sanger, the latter represented by a blood-red genital-like contraption. Kali, the Hindu goddess of death, venerated by bands of Thuggee stranglers in British India, is also thoroughly celebrated by another feminist "artist", Chitra Ganesh whose works are exhibited next to Chicago's.

Another highlight of the museum is Kehinde Wiley's Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps. A giant, bright painting proudly exhibited in the main hall of the Brooklyn Museum, this "artwork" is a mocking imitation of Jacques-Louis David's Bonaparte Crossing the Alps at Grand-Saint-Bernard. In Wiley's rendering, Napoleon is an overweight, bearded Black gangster decked out in camouflage fatigues, construction boots, and a bandana.

Other Wiley paintings exhibited in the museum mock great Western artworks and their subjects by showing young street thugs assume the poses of Biblical figures. Wiley, who received an MFA from Yale is the sharpest example of what modern art has become. A vicious, talentless mockery of the artistic, spiritual, and intellectual heritage of the West.

Yet the Brooklyn Museum genuflects before Kehinde Wiley:

The artist thereby confronts and critiques historical traditions that do not thereby     confronts and critiques historical traditions that do not acknowledge Black cultural experience. Wiley presents a new brand of portraiture that redefines and affirms Black identity and simultaneously questions of the history of Western painting.

To be fair, the Brooklyn Museum has a few impressive European and American works tucked away here and there. One or two Monet, a lonely Degas, and half a dozen American landscapes. And a few years ago, it exhibited James Tissot's outstanding watercolors depicting scenes from the New Testament. But overall, the gist is clear. Like Little Italy being squeezed out and swallowed up by Chinatown, year by year, Western Art in the Brooklyn Museum is being pushed out by the likes of Judy Chicago and Kehinde Wiley. For real, traditional, Western Art, one should go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Frick Collection.

Eugene Girin

Eugene Girin is a New York-based attorney and commentator.

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