After Art by David Joselit

Story By
John Thompson

“What comes after?” is the first of many great questions Joselit asks in this dense and enlightening read.

 

Both a thorough, and thoroughly fascinating essay on art in the digital-age, After Art by David Joselit explores, amongst other things, the nature of the digital image itself. Though short, it manages to cover contemporary art in a unique and unprecedented way. It asks the reader the worth of a digital image, is a high-res scan of the Mona Lisa as significant as the painting itself? Can a digital image gain (or lose) value? These are the questions that any art lover, critic, or observer must ask themselves.

One of the most interesting points that Joselit discusses is the commodification of art. How it is used as a currency and how it’s value is prescribed. Unlike most forms of currency, arts worth isn’t necessarily dictated by the masses (we all agree that one dollar is worth one dollar but Pollock is either a genius or a hack depending on who you ask). Instead, it’s dictated by the ‘professionals’, conveniently those who also have a stake in said value.

 Joselit’s analysis is essential for understanding the current artistic climate. It offers insight in why companies and governments invest millions into acquiring art, and serves as a base for understanding what that investment means for artists and art enthusiasts.

After Art is dense. It can be convoluted and difficult to decipher, but far from putting the reader off it instead encourages, no, demands multiple readings. The digital age is the biggest revolution in contemporary art since the invention of the camera, it’s effects manifest in both obvious and subtle ways that won’t be fully understood for many years. But as a starting point, it’s hard not to recommend the book.