Pretentiousness: Why It Matters
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Pretentiousness is for anyone who has braved being different, whether that's making a stand against artistic consensus or running the gauntlet of the last bus home dressed differently from everyone else. It's an essential ingredient in pop music and high art. Why do we choose accusations of elitism over open-mindedness? What do our anxieties about "pretending" say about us?
Co-editor of frieze, Europe's foremost magazine of contemporary art and culture, Dan Fox has authored over two hundred essays, interviews, and reviews and contributed to numerous catalogues and publications produced by major international art galleries and institutions.
observation. Brits like me living in the us can speak the native tongue but the context shapes its delivery and reception. Americans might take the English accent a variety of ways; as charming, intelligent, and sexy, or cold, snooty, and even villainous. On more than one occasion, an American has told me that an English accent is read as “pretentious.” The idea that a person’s natural way of speaking is “fake”—presumably in relation to a us accent being “real”—is absurd, suggesting deeper
song, Jay Z name-dropped artists Jean-Michel Basquiat and Warhol. He mentioned Christie’s auction house and showed off about “balling twin Bugattis outside the Art Basel” art fair in Switzerland. His song was a hymn to the material worth of modern and contemporary art, only interesting when seen through the lens of class and race, of a successful black musician and businessman working the mostly white art world. In March 2015, MOMA opened an exhibition of costumes, design, and videos charting
psychic powers of foresight, assertions are made about art that time proves wrong. (The advertising pages of old art magazines are a great place for discovering which artists have enjoyed lasting careers, and which had work once sold as champagne that cannot even be passed off as tap water today.) Claims made on behalf of artists that they are “challenging,” “undermining,” or “interrogating” the status quo (a curiously crypto-military language), or “breaking down boundaries” create false
been chameleon, and his 1980s moved from Two-Tone suits through 1940s demob gear to New Romantic, then—via Style Council soul boy—to Smiths-inspired shades and paisley shirts. Mark was into John Waters films, American B-movies, and Evelyn Waugh novels. For his eighteenth birthday he rented the local Boy Scouts meeting room and threw a 1940s fancy dress party, playing music off old gramophone 78s. But to walk through Wheatley dressed up was to run a gauntlet of suspicion; to be authentically
Osian, my family, without whom none of this ever would have happened. FUNDER ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Coffee House Press is an internationally renowned independent book publisher and arts nonprofit based in Minneapolis, MN; through its literary publications and Books in Action program, Coffee House acts as a catalyst and connector—between authors and readers, ideas and resources, creativity and community, inspiration and action. Coffee House Press books are made possible through the generous support of