Ars moriendi: the mortality of art

Gary Schwartz, “Ars moriendi: the mortality of art,” Art in America , November 1996, pp. 72-75

The natural condition of art is not to live on but to perish — usually sooner, almost inevitably later. We deceive ourselves in claiming that art is an undying repository of memory, that it comes to us intact from the past, and that it is in our power to preserve it for posterity. Every generation sees the decay or destruction of far more art than it conserves. This is no less true today than in the past. The conservation of art demands money, space, expert knowledge and lots of love. But which culture will lavish such attention on the art of an enemy or an alien group? Without it, art objects begin at a given moment to obey physical rather than cultural laws of survival.

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