Wag The Donkey

Reading Michael Lobel’s Artforum article on confederate monument sculptor Frederic Ruckstuhl, whose 1910s rants against modern art as degenerate were a precedent for the nazis led me to Ruckstuhl’s magazine, The Art World.

Because I’ve been researching Duchamp’s earliest days in New York, I looked for Ruckstahl’s take on the 1913 Armory Show, where Nude Descending a Staircase was famously shown, or the 1917 Independent Exhibition, where Fountain famously wasn’t.

The short answer, that this outspoken critic of modern art had nothing to say about the most influential artist of the modern era, is worth bookmarking for later, when thinking of how art/information travels, and how history is constructed. Because The Art World did publish scathing commentary on the Independent, but it was so preoccupied by the travesties perpetrated by every “aesthetic insanity from cubism to futurism” against the ideal beauty of the female nude, it missed its greatest scoop.

Lolo dit Joachim Raphaël Boronali, Et le soleil s’endormit sur l’Adriatique (And the Sun sank to its sleep on the Adriatic), 1910, as reproduced in The Art World, May 1917

In their takedown of the 1917 Independent in New York, The Art World warned that without proper gatekeeping, Art would be sullied by the kind of modernist hoax that befell the 1910 Salon des Indépendants in Paris. That’s where a Parisian critic submitted an abstract painting by a fictional Italian artist from a fabricated art movement, which–honhonhon!–turned out to have been painted by the tail of a donkey in a Montmartre cabaret.