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by Archaeology Newsroom

Modern art and antiquities. Hints of multifold embarassment and the fate of a relationship

The anti-academic spirit of modern art at first sight seems to clash with the artistic values of classical antiquity. Since Cezanne, however, antiquity has been approached in various complex and contradictory ways, which by no means indicate denial or contempt.

Certainly, the representation of nature, the anthropocentric mentality, the classical eurythmia and the entire structure of humanistic aesthetics have often suffered violent attacks. In opposition to these values modern art has put forward the autonomy of plastic space, the absolute, clear figure and anti-classical aesthetics. Quite frequently, however, these modern artistic proposals represent new interpretations of some “antiquity”, of the Platonic word, for instance, of the art of other ancient civilizations or even of other aspects of Greco-Roman classicism, as they were lately revealed by contemporary scholarship. The real target of modern criticism was not ancient art, but the conservatism of its superficial admirers. The essential opposition between ancient and modern art lies only in the function of artwork in societies past and present. Recently, even this antinomy tends to disappear, since both ancient and modern works of art are treated indiscriminately when researched, restored or consumed. The common fate of past and present images unexpectedly reconciles the two, leaving unanswered only a few embarrassing questions about the future.