Popa Tatu 20, Bucharest

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Leading art critic explores the connections between art’s past and present.

Contemporary art sometimes pretends to have made a clean break with history. In The Perpetual Guest, poet and critic Barry Schwabsky demonstrates that any robust understanding of art’s present must also account for the ongoing life and changing fortunes of its past.

Surveying the art world of recent decades, Schwabsky attends not only to its most significant newer faces—among them, Kara Walker, Thomas Hirschhorn, Ai Weiwei, Chris Ofili, and Lorna Simpson—but their forebears as well, both near (Jeff Wall, Nancy Spero, Dan Graham, Cindy Sherman) and more distant (Velázquez, Manet, Matisse, and the portraitists of the Renaissance).

Schwabsky’s rich and subtle contributions illuminate art’s present moment in all its complexity: shot through with determinations produced by centuries of interwoven traditions, but no less open-ended for it.

Published by Verso, 304 pages

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