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Art has concerned philosophers from the beginning. In The Republic, Plato denounced art as mere imitation. For Hegel, too, art was subordinate to philosophy; in 1828 he wrote that art "in its highest vocation, is and remains for us a thing of the past." More recently, philosophy professor Arthur C. Danto announced "the end of art" in 1984.

But Danto didn't mean that artists were no longer making art; rather, he was referring to the end of art history. Throughout much of this history, artists--from Hellenistic sculptors in ancient Greece to academic realist painters of nineteenth-century France--sought to realistically depict the natural world. But with the advent of Modernism, realism devolved in a rapid denouement--brush strokes became visible and bold, color was expressive rather than authentic and the figure became increasingly sketchy and crude until nothing remained but pure abstraction. By the 1980s, however, this linear progression came to an abrupt end as the art world entered a new, pluralistic era. This era was not defined by a dominant school or movement but was characterized by its lack thereof.

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