In this collection of essays, written and published between 2005 and 2020, Hal Foster tries to understand what it means for contemporary art to be political. As a public intellectual whose career bridges academia, art institutions, and art criticism, Foster addresses art historians, artists, curators, as well as a general public concerned with how art might be anything more than a way to launder stock market windfalls or to blow off some liberal elite indignation.

The problem facing political art, Foster argues, is one of both form and content. The Right has appropriated techniques of shock and spectacle from the historical avant-garde, while also leading a charge to dismantle the state in terms that its new ideologues like Steve Bannon claim to borrow from Vladimir Lenin. In this context, earnest artworks speaking truth to power are brushed aside by post-truth cynicism, while...

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