Rupert Christiansen

Brillo boxes and marble nudes

Professor John Carey is at his most acerbic, combative and impassioned in this brilliant polemic, developed from lectures he gave at University College London last year. Just don’t expect the question proposed by the title to be satisfactorily answered: Carey doesn’t exactly contradict himself — he’s far too fly for that — but halfway through, he executes an audacious volte-face that makes his arguments even more dizzyingly provocative.

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