Spotts on Modernism

How We Can Stop Building Ugly Architecture | The Plaza Perspective

Modernists were indeed revolutionaries. They rejected the notion that art must be rooted in a nation’s history, and they deliberately sought change and experimentation. ‘To every age its own art’ was the founding principle of the Vienna Secession in 1897. It was permissible for art to be ‘ugly’ and to emulate the blunt energy of ‘primitivism’. They were more concerned for truth and doubts than for beauty and certainties, more interested in questions than in answers, more anxious to communicate feelings … than to portray visual reality. … Modernists celebrated disorder and uncertainty. Far from shunning the epithet of elitist, they raised it to a high principle that artists were independent of society and that culture was a sphere unto itself. The gulf that had opened between Modernists and the public was not their fault; it was the public that had lost its aesthetic sense and gone its own way. Nothing could have been more foreign to the Modernists than the idea that they had an obligation to society. Inculcating national pride or providing the public with security, beauty and joy, not to mention a refuge from life’s travails, was not what they had in mind.

Frederic Spotts, Hitler and the Power of Aesthetics

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