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Monday, 18 January 2021


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The Bird's flight

(as you know, Charlie Parker's sax escaping the bounds)

I don't know what the answer to that particular question is- assuming there is one, but the piece of art I've probably ever had the greatest reaction to was seeing Guernica in person when it was at MOMA. War in all its mayhem and horror writ large in lurid B&W!

Apparently, it also affected one Tony Shafrazi, who attacked it with red spray paint while declaring that he was "an artist." The painting was cleaned and remained unharmed, Shafrazi is currently one of the world's top gallerists...

OK, Mike, I'll play. By far the greatest artistic achievement of the 20th century was the creation and subsequent development of jazz. If the 20th century was the American century, then the most original and widespread American music is jazz. Before Mohammad Ali became America's foremost cultural ambassador around the world, the distinction was held by Louis Armstrong.

Running Fence just took me away.

A couple of totally off-the-cuff nominations from my own (admittedly very, VERY limited experience):

1. "A Confederacy of Dunces" by John Kennedy Toole

2. "The Sellout: A Novel" by Paul Beatty

3. The TV series "The Wire"

I'm sure there are headier, more weighty choices than these, but each of these struck me as masterpieces in their own right.

{Obligatory: YMMV}

["The Wire" is right up there for me too, but it was 2002-2008, so, 21st century. --Mike]

Marcel Duchamp's Fountain from 1917, which publicly expanded the definition of what art is.

I'm not sure I am a broad enough consumer of all art to judge, but the thing that comes to mind first is Walt Disney's first full-length animated film,"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."

"greatest artistic accomplishment"

Each word is weighted with alternative meanings and implications. And the ENTIRE 20th century, from 1901?

Even if I narrow my viewpoint to, say, photojournalism, I find too many candidates.

Gonna sit this one out.

Besides, I have my own idle question: Why is just the "A" letter on my keyboard completely worn away?

The Statue of Liberty. I personally wouldn't cross the street to see it. But the effect that it has on newly arrived immigrants is so profound, that I respectfully submit it as my pick.

If greatest means most influential, then certainly the most important and long-lasting artistic change in the 20th century was modernism, which cut across so many different art forms. One can also argue that photography is a purely modern art form born entirely from the modernist movement with no historical predecessor.

I’m going to stay away from technical accomplishments that support artistic achievement and keep my sights on actual artistic creation. And there are so many accomplishments from the 21st century I will need to ignore - such as all of Apple’s devices, which I consider stunning works of design and realisation. As a former programmer I have to admit that on a couple of occasions I have been overwhelmed with emotion at the stunning elegance and beauty of written code (yep, that’s true). However, the thing of beauty that resonates with me comes from when I moved from Canada to Australia at the age of 15 in 1972. The Australians were in the final stages of the building of the Sydney Opera House, designed by architect, Jørn Utzon. At the time I was amazed by it’s elegance, and I would sometimes catch the train into the harbour just to sit and look at it. It is a work of stunning beauty, and I will never grow tired of it. I have since seen a number of shows there, the most recent being Jethro Tull. It used to sit by itself at the end of a long narrow peninsula called Bennalong Point, but since then they have stupidly allowed hotels to be built on that point, spoiling the aesthetic somewhat. Still, to me, that building is the greatest artistic accomplishment of the 20th century.

"greatest artistic accomplishment of the 20th century?"

I have given it at least three minutes of thought, and I would pick the development of the motion picture industry. I *do* believe it operates in accordance to Sturgeon's Law, but the small percentage at the top is wonderful stuff.

I'm curious to see what others say.

It's influence spawned other forms of music like country-western and rock while also influencing visual arts and literature.

Sydney Opera House

"Earthrise" by Astronaut William Anders, December 24, 1968.

I am sure your question about artistic accomplishment was rhetorical to frame your point on large vs small idle questions. Nonetheless, I'll answer it... the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.


Kind of blue. But then, Das Lied von der Erde. But then, The third man. But Kind of blue.

Perhaps the Pale Blue Dot Voyager 1 photo from 1990. Or maybe one of the photos of the earth taken by astronauts in space. Makes me want to rewatch "2001 A Space Odyssey."

Cubism -- it touched off all kinds of changes in all the arts.

Interesting question. What springs to my mind is Guernica. It captures a moment, but stands for all such destruction and agony. It seems at first glance a medley of cartoon images, but if we stay to look and learn it grows deeper and deeper.

Given the number of people it has affected, I'd say it's the film industry, by that I mean movies.

Although maybe film itself, B&W and later colour films are a pretty close second. All of a sudden the avg person could record important moments of their lives themselves for a reasonable price.

I think one of the most important works of art in photography, is W. Eugene Smith's image from his Minamata series of the mother bathing her child. It is Gene Smith's Pieta and it is the Pieta for the 20th Century.

I think the reduction of recording technology to the absolute minimum that still allows professional results and at a price that is not prohibitive, has allowed access to more people to express their sonic art. A laptop now replaces a huge board with dozens of knobs and sliders.

Even a couple of decades back, you could have assembled a terrific band, but if you couldn't afford studio time, or "know" someone in the business, you had to basically win the lottery to get your work out to the masses.

Today, albums are produced that match anything that came out of Abby Road or Capital Records (audio quality, maybe not artistically) by people that may have never been in the same room during recording, and that room could literally be your bedroom.

This has allowed more musical artists to produce their art.

Broadly speaking, modernism and abstract expressionism.

I'm not even sure what they are anymore since everything is becoming homogenized. But I think vagueness might be another art movement these days.

Personal favorites:
Literature: "Catch-22", "The Catcher In The Rye", Hemingway, Faulkner, Garcia Marquez.
Photography: Evan's architecture, Eggleston's snapshots, Frank's America, Friedlander's reflections.
Film: "Once Upon A Time In The West". I don't see a lot of films so this is just one of my favorite movies.
Painting: Rothko's color fields, Picasso's cubes, Pollock's squiggles.

If we're talking a single work of art, as opposed to entire new media (such as motion pictures) or entire genres of music (such as jazz), then 1984 by Orwell. Prescient and pretty much sums up so much of the 20th Century (and, alas, the first fifth of the 21st too). Packed one heck of a punch in such a short book.

The head reels. I was going to go with Modernism, but I don't think that's "an accomplishment," any more than Jazz is an "accomplishment." These are broad categories that are the work of multitudes. Instead, I'd understand an "accomplishment" to be the work or output identified with a specific person. "Greatest" - might be interpreted as having the broadest reach or most profound effect: the thing that others might go beyond but never around. But I am stumped.

I might have plumped for "Right of Spring" or "Guernica" but these were turning points that don't have much affect on folks today. Then again, perhaps "Kind of Blue" or "The White Album" have a broader reach as they existed in mass media during a time when they were, in fact, everywhere. But painting or music are not themselves innovations of the 20th Century. An artistic form that didn't exist before the 20th might be where you'd find an answer: Film or Television? Not much "Great" TV is out there though in the 20th Century. So an indisputably great film?

OK: Star Wars. A ridiculous answer, to be sure. But it has had a profound effect on generations of kids who have grown up to think of the universe in a profoundly different way than they did before that movie existed.

So from the sublime to the ridiculous. Thanks for the diversion . . .

For me ART is in the eye of the beholder.
So my greatest "artistic" achievement in my 79 years was to make Blurb books from my Kodachromes made in the 1960s when I lived in and travelled from Baltimore Md.
For a born again procrastinator that was quite an effort.
Now my kids can see what I did and where I went by flipping through the books while keeping an eye on the iphone.

Computers/Internet. Not so much directly art but because of their impact on all arts.

I’ll go “Kind of Blue” as well. And while listening to that you can flip through “The Americans”. Both timeless, always fresh.

Another vote for Jazz.

Taking a second shot at this, and making it highly personal:

I was just 20, at home on leave in Philly, 1962. The city had staged a Fourth of July event in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, parade, fireworks, etc. Looking at the building, that broad expanse of steps (now the so-called "Rocky steps"), I decided to return the next day to see what a real "art museum" held.
Quite a lot, I learned, but the most arresting piece was Salvador Dali's "Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War)."
That painting planted something in my psyche. When my leave was up, and I arrived at my next assignment, one of the first things I did was to purchase a set of paints and brushes at the BX. With no training or innate skill, my painting sucked, and still does, but that "something" in my psyche still motivates me, as does re-viewing Dali's painting anytime I visit the PMoA.
I’m glad to have cameras, and I love the freedom of digital.

Okay, I'll bite.
I vote for Joaquin Sorolla's monumental series of canvases painted for the Hispanic Society of America.
Sorolla was arguably the greatest representational painter of the modern era, his career a last flowering of traditional skill before modernism broke the chain reaching back to the Renaissance. He was a contemporary and friend to John Singer Sargent and Anders Zorn. Sorolla began as a social realist, but found his stride painting beach scenes and traditional Spanish culture.
For the Hispanic Society of America in New York, Sorolla painted 14 monumental canvases depicting the various regions of Spain, each populated with figures in traditional garb, from fishermen unloading their catch in blinding sunlight to religious processions. A triumph of painterly skill, and a time capsule of early 20th Century Spain.

The birth of the 20th century was on the day that Schoenberg wrote his first atonal piece of music, the second string quartet, Op. 10, with soprano. After that anything was possible and followed naturally in all the arts.

Ten thousand years ago people mixed pigments with water and started to spray or paste it on walls to make paintings. Two thousand years ago paper was invented and people mixed pigments with water and brushed or sprayed it on paper. Some 500 years ago (?) pigments were mixed with oil and pasted on canvas to make paintings. Then some 150 years ago some people found a way to use silver instead of pigments to make images on paper. And finally in late 20th century, we returned back to the roots and started to spray images on paper again, using pigments. And yet, some people still think that the short diversion away from pigments and into silver is the only right way to make images.

In visual art it has to be Duchamp’s oeuvre-no one else comes close to his staggering influence.

If I had to choose one work of his, I’d say the Boite en Valise. For me it’s basically the culmination of so many threads-concept, reproduction, commodification, self-reference... There’s just so much to unpack there.

Though I do like the pale blue dot answer... in that direction you have the Apollo photos, Hubble deep field... definitely a grander accomplishment, in several senses.

But Duchamp’s radical redefinition stands alone in the visual arts. Nothing has escaped its influence. Before, the visual dominated; now it, in one way or another, always answers to the concept. What an amazing, epochal transformation.

I believe that the greatest artistic accomplishment of the 20th century was Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon.

Sadly, the greatest artistic achievement (based on its impact on society) of the 20th century is probably Star Wars.

We’ve been living in one fantasy or another ever since.

Photography became a card-carrying art only in the 20th Century and the enthusiasm of its practitioners has dwarfed that of every other art form, both in its depth and its breadth. Images made by some of the 20th-century master photographers and print-makers would last a very long time in our imagination, perhaps more widely than any other single art form. I think we are still unable to fully appreciate the impact of photography on art for art's sake and it might take another century to sink it all in. Digital art that photography has spawned is threatening to be as influential an art form in the 21st.

I don't even like the movie, but I have to recognize the impact of Rocky running up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum. To this day one can sit and watch people run up those steps to celebrate overcoming a hardship that life has dealt them or having reached a seemingly impossible goal. They are easy to distinguish from the tourist run.

I agree with Terry Byrnes - the photo known as "Earthrise" by William Anders taken from the Apollo 11 command module while Armstrong and Aldrin were walking on the moon.

PS: I think the question is silly; a bit like asking which peanut in the can you just finished was the best!

The greatest artistic achievement of the 20th century?

I’ve no idea. As someone essentially noted earlier, it’s a question that bleeds with oodles of defensible responses. And I’ve enjoyed reading the ideas put forth so far!

Nevertheless, the response by Cecelia suggesting that Marcel Duchamp’s work was the greatest artistic achievement (specifically his “Fountain” (urinal) resonated most squarely on-target with me. When scholars talk about “greatness” in artistic achievement they’re never referring to craft or prettiness. They nearly always confer such a title on work that inflected some portion of the art world in some way. Duchamp, by essentially declaring art to be all about expression of ideas and visions rather than production of products, permanently changed the trajectory and expanse of the entire art world across all media. We still very much see the impact of this moment over a century later.

So I say “Hear, hear!” to Cecelia!

All great choices. I nominate the saving of Europe's art treasures from destruction by the Nazis in the closing days of WWII (popularized in the movie, 'The Monuments Men'.

The 1913 Armory Show.

The most creative moment was when Louis Armstong invented modern jazz by playing (and singing) slightly before and behind the notes.

For me I think it is movies, and the director Krzysztof Kieslowski and The Three Colours trilogy (Blue, White and Red) and The Double Life of Véronique (1991) La double vie de Véronique (original title) is still movies I think about and remember more that 25 years after I saw them.

Another vote for Marcel Duchamp here - what are photographs but Found Objects? You see something interesting and isolate it from its spatial and temporal context, for others to look at. If you're lucky, you transcend what you found to a work of art.

The advent of tv is amazing; as far as movies go, I'd vote for La Dolce Vita and American Graffiti. The former because of my unfulfilled desire to settle in Rome ever since my first visit in 1957; the latter, because of the music that brought back so many memories of my own, including the strange feeling of leaving school that last day, knowing it was all over and things could never be the same free way again.

In photography, the best creations were the Nikon F and the Hasselblad 500 Series.

My best photographic memory? Two: photographing Brigitte Bardot; shooting my first major calendar in the Bahamas, precisely because Pirelli had been there doing the same thing.

Funny how it's all somehow to do with artistic emotions.

Am I allowed another choice? On the 17th November 1930 Kurt Gödel wrote Über formal unentscheidbare Sätze der Principia Mathematica und verwandter Systeme. In this paper he tore out the foundations from mathematics and thus changed the world, utterly. He firstly showed that if you had a language strong enough to do arithmetic then in that language there are statements which can neither be shown to be true nor shown to be false in that language. And he was not done: he then showed that any such language could not even show that it was, itself, consistent.

This paper placed a pin in the huge balloon of 3,000 years of human thought which then slowly (it was a large balloon) came to pieces scattering parts of itself everywhere.

All changed, changed utterly / A terrible beauty is born

But it is how he did this which makes it so beautiful. You think that arithmetic is a language which talks about numbers: Gödel showed that it also can be a language which talks about itself. And he did this twice: he did it to show the first thing, and then he put that first thing in the language to show the second thing. This is like a beautiful jewel in this huge chaotic world.

And in this he also helped invent 20th-century art. No-one, when they listened to Beethoven, thought that Beethoven's works were about Beethoven's works. But all great 20th-century art is at least partly about itself: when you look at Cartier-Bresson's work you are always aware of how he made it, how he restricted himself, what he chose not to do when making it. Because we can now do anything, we must choose what we do not do and so our art is always about its own production.

You will say that mathematics is not art: well, it is certainly not science, and it is about the construction of beautiful things by people (OK, mostly by men so far, they do not allow gypsy girls) with their minds, and pen, and paper. So what is it? It is art.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Gilmour's guitar solo in Comfortably Numb

(I was going to say Kind of Blue or Guernica, but they were both already taken)

An impossible conceit of course but I'm happy to play. I'm going to stick to only things I've experienced and, that being the case, would suggest reading 100 Years of Solitude in my 20s (not sure it would have the same impact now), the paintings of Schiele, some of the paintings of Dorothea Tanning, or the work of Theatre Royal de Luxe - either the Sultan's Elephant on the Mall in London or the Diver on the Mersey in Liverpool. Oh but there's more of course, always more - the paintings of Emily Carr, Symphony No. 3 by Gorecki, Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, Tales of the City by Maupin, Atomised by Houellebecq...

The greatest artistic accomplishment(s) of the 20th century is/are the technological advances that have made "the arts" infinitely more available to the world's population. On Saturdays my mother listened to the Metropolitan Opera (with Milton Cross) on the local AM radio (thank you Texaco).

Before television, great art in the form of great movies were available throughout the world. Advances in printing allowed the distribution of the world's great art (or pictures of great art) available to everyone.

And now there is television and the internet. No longer is technology just a deliverer of art -- technology is now the medium of art -- some of it great art.

The musical score for 'The Rite of Springfield by Igor Stravinsky.

[Was that a Spellcheck mistake or is this some kind of satire that I'm not aware of--? Sounds like a Simpson's episode. --Mike]

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon - Picasso

King and Queen - Henry Moore ( google this: there are lots of pictures and it's necessary to look at a few to get a feel for this work. The important ones are outdoors ).

Apocalypse Now - Francis Ford Coppola

The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

Good question, really got me thinking about art and its leverage of society. Can't argue with any of the previous suggestions!

It'll be a different answer tomorrow, or later on today, but Waterloo Sunset by The Kinks is a sublime piece of music.

MikeR, your 'A' key may be worn away through a combination of it being the second most used letter in the alphabet, and the way you strike the keys. For example, the 'A' is directly under my little finger, and it gets a firm stab when I want that letter. But the 'E', the most common letter, isn't directly under my third finger so it doesn't receive such a hard contact.

Manufacturing tolerances may also play a part. Perhaps the ink layer was slightly thinner on that key and it only shows up because that key is so commonly used.

Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Frank Lloyd Wight’s “Fallingwater” . . . When I visited I was spellbound. The genius of where it is, where it was “placed,” how it feels to be inside this structure. Functional art that envelopes and ennobles the human being.


Primo Levi's writing.

Yes Mike the "Rite of Springfield" was a spell check mistake, but there was probably a Simpson's episode now that you mention it.

Father Ted

Not sure I have an original answer to this, but having read the preceding comments I think I’ll support Ken’s nomination of 1984 as the most enlightening artwork, though at the time it seemed a work of almost pure fantasy but has now sadly become close to reality :-(.

To me, the greatest artistic accomplishment of the 20th century was the rise of the medium of cinema. Film combined all the previous media: visual, written, spoken, music, sound, drama, motion, dance. Film takes all of those and makes something new.

Art for Eyes - Photography.
Art for Ears - Rock 'n' Roll.

The Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC, designed by Maya Lin. Great art triggers intense emotions.

As people have noted above, Jazz in toto, but especially from its beginnings through Avant Garde of the '60's to very early '70's has to really rank high. It's not every day an entirely new musical form is developed that has such reach---and its fundamental quality of being a musical form developed by the non-dominant western race at the time is also incredibly significant.

And I also have to give the nod to Duchamp and his innovations. Cubism was radical, but looks much less so when closely considered in formal terms---much of what it did really was a culmination of previously laid groundwork. Duchamp's work, OTOH, was a quantum leap to the endgame of what was possible in art while still remaining art. Nearly everything done since and from now on is more like backfilling between what Duchamp achieved and what was understood in the first decade of the 20th century. It was truly a nuclear event.

I think it's not really possible to single out an individual work here, either for Jazz or in Duchamp's singular oeuvre.

On further reflection:

West Side Story

Mike, I read through all the responses and was surprised that no one mentioned Bob Dylan? He was the voice and poet of my generation.

Duchamp. Iconoclast.

Philadelphia Museum of Art, again.

In a large enough gallery devoted to some of his work, I see few people venturing into the dim room in the back, where just one person at a time can peer through the peephole in a rustic door and view "Étant donnés"

Whoah, ZM on Godel's incompleteness. He and Turing, great stuff.

Regarding expressive art, some movies seem to be as spectacularly constructed, in the number of moving parts that are involved, as an amazing piece of architecture. I'll grant that there's less at stake if the movie's story falls apart, and maybe movies are less lasting. But they can be a sum of lots of individuals' truly creative input, bigger and richer than what any single contributor could have imagined. Actors, costume and set designers, directors of photography, and even the director themself. And there are these technical puzzles of storytelling, and just random circumstances, that need to be worked through.

So I guess I want to nominate a movie or a TV series. I get caught up in Francis Ford Coppola's stories about how his movies came to be. Maybe being American from a certain wave of immigrants, the Godfather I and II are my nomination. I can see why people might also choose the early Star Wars saga.

Maybe no single movie quite fits Mike's tall order. Whatever we are all choosing, there seems to be a good history that led to the work's creation, a tale of how it was actually made, and then maybe an interesting plot of what followed in its wake.

... and if I'm allowed a third helping, in some ways "Teeter-Totter Wall" trumps all of them.


"Earthrise" - Not discounting the art that exists in a Saturn V(and there is, if you're even near Huntsville, AL take the opportunity to walk underneath that magnificent booster) - but that wonderful photo of a jewel-like earth in the black of space. Listening to the astronauts, you hear them move from professional, military trained crew, to..humans.

Just human beings seeing their home.

It is very American to ask what is the best, the greatest, etc'

"But if you're going to say Duchamp, shouldn't you also include Warhol? Aren't the two of them the twin poles of the idea that "art doesn't exist unless I say it does"? I'm just sayin'."

Interesting point. I'd actually argue that Warhol planted his crops in a field that Duchamp cleared. But I'm just sayin', too!

The first walk on the moon. What a beauty. And almost everyone on earth did watch it.

I'm going to go with an art movement, which is the f64 Group. It was the first significant movement and style in photography which looked to the inherent characteristics of photography to determine what an artistic photograph should look like. Until that point, art photography looked to drawing and painting as guides for photographic aesthetics. The f64 provided a guide for how all photographs should look from that point onward and also functioned as a foil for other movements that followed to react against, like the New Topographics (which de-emphasized romanticism) and the New Photographics (which emphasized handmade, manipulated processes) of the 1970s. I wonder if these movements would have came about without f64 to spur them on. With the current emphasis on on ultra sharp lenses and high resolution sensors, it seems like the legacy and aesthetics of the f64 Group continues to impact and guide photography.

"Star Wars" immediately came to mind. Movies are an incredibly collaborative art form, requiring best efforts across the board, from writers to actors to cinematographers to composers to set designers/builders to...well, you get the idea. "Star Wars" pushed the boundaries in all of these dimensions.

I thing the XX century its best defined by its dead ends.

- Joyce seeking the end of language with Finnegans Wake (others will follow)

- Duchamp seeking the end of painting, or of visual arts.

- Robert Frank brilliantly subverting all current art photography and then walking away.

- Schönberg proposing the end of music as we knew it.

Maybe the greatest achievement was the relentless questioning of art and its place in the world.

“In my understanding I group Duchamp with a number of disparate influences that redefined visual art at a further distance from photography, which had effortlessly appropriated figurative representation in a way that art could never hope to match.”

Yet the amazing thing is that photography both played an integral part in Duchamp's influence (no one has fountain, for example, just photographs of it, which if I recall correctly may not be of the original? I’m a bit hazy on the details right now) and the redefinition of art spread to photography as well. There's no Warhol without Duchamp. Is there even a Sgt. Pepper's? The line may not be as straight, but it’s there.

This argument being made, of course, it is an impossible question, but fun to think about all the lines of influence.

But I do see more than just two votes for Duchamp... mine above, another from Thomas Rink and a fifth for the Armory show, which is the first time Duchamp was shown in NYC if I remember correctly. Anyway I love Thomas's comment, because yes, from one side, Duchamp moved art towards photography... Put the frame/pedestal on whatever you find and now make the argument as to why the viewer should care.

Literature: TS Eliot - Four Quartets...

A contender for the photograph:
Avenue Simon-Bolivar, Paris, 1950 by Willy Ronis
Film: Wim Wenders - Wings of Desire

This is fun. And way too broad a question to be able to come up with just one answer. So I'll toss two out.

1. Dada. Duchamp included, but I think everything done in art since then is either a continuation of Dada, a commentary on Dada, a reaction to Dada or a rejection of Dada.

2. Moving to folk art without leaving Dada: Carhenge outside Alliance, Nebraska. An accurate, aligned replica of Stonehenge. The local farmer got the idea and just did it in his cornfield. And what could be more American than a new replica of something ancient and mysterious and British created in a corn field using junk cars?

[Great reaction! --Mike]

“The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band”

― Brian Eno

Steve Belanger said "Jazz". I could vote for that but I won't. I'll vote for John Cage's rediscovery of random music.

Yes, I said "rediscovery". The earliest piece of random music I'm aware of is by Mozart, one of Cage's favourite composers, and it was a piece called "A Musical Game" which consisted of a pack of playing cards, each with a bar or so of music written on it. Shuffle and play. Cage resurrected the idea and created a multitude of different ways of coming up with random results without relying on the shuffling of a set of cards, and he had a lot of fun with the ways he came up with to randomise the results.

Why do I think this was the greatest artistic accomplishment? I think it did a number elf things. It broke classical music out of boxes like serialism and threw a cat among the pigeons as the saying goes. It also broke another trend in classical music. Up until the mid to late 19th century performers took liberties with scores, it was expected. Composers even set up time in the music for the performer to do so by inserting their own improvisation, the cadenza. As the 19th century drew to an end the idea was gaining hold that the score as written by the composer was sacrosanct, the performer's job was simply to play things aw written. Performers even stopped contributing their own cadenzas and simply playing cadenzas composed by earlier performers which had later been transcribed. The one thing a performer couldn't do was to change a note of the music. Cage forced performers to collaborate in determining the notes of the music, and everything else, and forced thee listener to approach music with a different way of listening, a way that attended to each note as it unfolded with no idea of what the next note would be rather than listening to the unfolding of an expected series of notes in a given order.

Cage put play back into classical music, he made the performers indulge in play as part of the creation of the music and he invited listeners to enjoy performers at play. I think Cage is to classical music as jazz is to popular music. These days I listen mostly to jazz but I listen to jazz in the way I learnt to listen to Cage's random pieces, with every note offering a new surprise of its own.

And, post=Cage, classical music is a bit less stuffy than it was before him.

"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot.

Sydney Opera House closely followed by The Gamble House in Pasadena.

"Showboat" by Jerome Kern (play or movie)

"Hey Joe" - the Roy Buchanan album version

"The Monkey Wrench Gang" by Edward Abbey

"Moonrise Hernandez"

"Fawlty Towers"

(I could go on. A very personal list)

Chuck Berry.

Blue Train

Interesting questions, and I don’t think I have an answer. I would love to say “Film making”, as it’s universal, i.e. a film can be enjoyed by people of any ethnicity, nationality or culture, and it was a new medium. However, I gather that strictly speaking it’s 19th century, not 20th - the basics of filmmaking technology were in place by the 1890s, and there were already cinemas in various countries just before 1900. So not film making...

So many other artistic media are either culture- or language- specific (e.g. literature - you need to be able to read the language a book is written in), or which require the viewer/consumer to go to a specific place to see the art (e.g. to a gallery), which means it’s not universal. That leaves art that can be broadcast, which brings us to music. Therefore I’d go along with jazz - except that it also dates to the late 19th century. So how about Rock ‘n’ Roll? It might not be ‘high’ art, but the 3-minute pop song has had a huge impact on many millions of people world-wide, and it’s not necessarily limited by language or culture.

Picasso's Guernica. I was a jaded teen when I saw it for the first time at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. I stood, mouth agape, in front of it until my friends pulled me away. Nothing before or since, in any art form, has had such impact on me.

Truffaut's Les 400 Coups is up there for me. Not much cinema listed above, but in many ways the principal art form of the century.

Well not art exactly but I think I’m choosing between the Concorde or the series 1 E Type Jaguar (convertible), both of which are in my view amongst the purest and most attractive transportation designs - and easy long distance transport perhaps was one the defining features of the last century. They’ll always be head turners.

Within the arts themselves I’ve always been particularly partial to Cezanne but not sure I could pick one piece specifically, and musically I’m tending to agree jazz is where I’d look, in particular just about anything by Nina Simone.

Keith Jarrett, The Köln Concert.

My initial reaction was The Great Gatsby or Star Wars, but I really like the Kurt Godel argument.

Mike-You are scaring me. Just kidding.

When I read your question about the greatest 20th century artistic accomplishment, Sgt. Pepper’s popped into my head, and immediately I thought, “He won’t think that is significant enough to be the pinnacle”. I rarely respond anyway, and wasn’t planning on it this time. I clicked onto a couple posts from the past week which I had missed, and something drew me to look at this one again, and then I saw your own answer to it!

Honestly, that was how it went. And then I started chuckling to myself about it.

It is subjective to say this, but personally I think they began to turn a corner with Rubber Soul, a very different album than they had published previously. That came out in the states in December 1965. From there to Let It Be in May 1970, and they were done. 4-1/2 years to have such a profound effect on the direction of music.

No question that Sgt. Pepper’s was the huge shift in there, but when you consider how short their tenure as a group, to me it makes their influence that much more impressive.

Thanks for writing this!

Invention of television and how it ultimately shaped all cultures.


I have to chuckle at some of this, as it reminds me of a story told me by a museum director friend.

Something they were showing was influenced (copied?) from Duchamps. A patron was expressing his rather rural opinion. Growing weary, he went to the man and gave him a 30 second lecture about duchamps, concluding, "you know, duchamps always identified himself as an artist, not a toilet maker.

The invention and implementation of the internet.
It brought art to those who might never have seen it previously.
Art and Science, the creative inspiration is not different.

I too vote for Kind of Blue. It transcended all that came before and has rarely been approached, let alone exceeded since. Not only was the jazz timeless and have a spiritual emotional sense to it, but it was recorded at the CBS 30th Street Studio, which is considered by quite a few people as the greatest recording studio of all time. The album was a treasure and no matter how many times I listen to it, I'm tran sifted by the artistry.

Wow, the entire century? That's a big subject, but the one thing that came to mind was the turn of the millennium. I'm on Australia's west coast and I'll never forget staying up all night, seeing the first dawn of 2000 (yes, it was wrong! I know!) over the islands east of NZ, then Australia's contribution to the worldwide TV broadcast. That aboriginal didgeridoo from the top of the Opera House still makes the hairs stand up. Then all the music contributions from across the country, including Uluru. Wow. I have a DVD of it all; it's not top quality, I wish we'd had full hi-def then. But whether you call it art or not, it's at the top of my list of thousands of other things.

I really can’t say. Definitely not one record or one pop band or even one painting or painter. Really can’t say.

Haha I immediately thought the Strawberry fields/penny Lane single by the Beatles..

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