In the vast archive of literature from, and on, Hans Blumenberg, there are few mentions of theories of modern or contemporary art. Two exceptions exist, which both took place in 1966. One deals with the topic more obliquely: a lecture on Paul Valéry given at the Akademie der Künste in West Berlin. The second takes the topic of pop and op art head-on in a discussion led by Blumenberg for the research group Poetik und Hermeneutik. In neither does Blumenberg offer anything like a working theory of contemporary art, but his lecture enacts a performative contemporary reading of Valéry’s attempt to make Leonardo da Vinci relevant for the French poet’s age. Comparing Blumenberg’s comments on contemporary art with those in US formalist art criticism (Clement Greenberg, Michael Fried) provides a unique constellation of later modernist thinking on the plastic arts (painting and sculpture, chiefly). This article attempts to read Blumenberg as a contemporary thinker for art, an attempt that revisits the provocation that Blumenberg set for himself in 1966 when considering the stakes for contemporary art forms. Can one say that Blumenberg was himself a modernist?

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