Contemporary art sometimes pretends to have made a clean break with history. In The Perpetual Guest: Art in the Unfinished Present, 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).
Here, Schwabsky discusses his new book, published by Verso on March 1, 2016, in conversation with Solveig Øvstebø, the Renaissance Society’s Executive Director and Chief Curator.
Barry Schwabsky is art critic for The Nation and coeditor of international reviews for Artforum and has contributed to many publications including The London Review of Books and New Left Review. He has taught at Maryland Institute College of Art, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Yale University, and Goldsmiths College (University of London), among others. His previous books include Words for Art: History, Criticism, Theory, Practice, a collection of essays on art writing and art writers, as well as several volumes of poetry. He lives in New York.