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Contemporary art is obsessed with the politics of identity. Visit any contemporary gallery, museum or theatre, and chances are the art on offer will be principally concerned with race, gender, sexuality, power and privilege.

The quest for truth, freedom and the sacred has been thrust aside to make room for identity politics. Mystery, individuality and beauty are out; radical feminism, racial grievance and queer theory are in. The result is a drearily predictable culture and the narrowing of the space for creative self-expression and honest criticism.

Sohrab Ahmari’s book is a passionate cri de coeur against this state of affairs. The New Philistines takes readers deep inside a cultural scene where all manner of ugly, inept art is celebrated so long as it toes the ideological line, and where the artistic glories of the Western world are revised and disfigured to fit the rigid doctrines of identity politics.

The degree of politicisation means that art no longer performs its historical function, as a mirror and repository of the human spirit – something that should alarm not just art lovers but anyone who cares about the future of liberal civilisation.

PROVOCATIONS is a groundbreaking new series of short polemics composed by some of the most intriguing voices in contemporary culture and edited by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. Sharp, intelligent and controversial, Provocations provides insightful contributions to the most vital discussions in society today.


Reviews

“Ahmari has thrown down the gauntlet in The New Philistines. It’s unlikely that the smugly complacent practitioners of identity politics will heed him, but serious men and women would do well to spend an hour or two with this fine little book. It deserves a wide audience, especially given the rage and violence of our time.”

The Public Discourse

“Sohrab Ahmari’s polemic against the contemporary art world is angry, witty, uncompromising, and utterly unanswerable... Tremendously entertaining and thought-provoking.”

Andrew Roberts, Commentary

“This book should be available at every art museum, art gallery, and avant-garde performance space. Stacks of the book should be available in all college courses on art, right next to the CPR apparatus, as an emergency antidote to moral and aesthetic cardiac arrest.”

Roger Kimball, The New Criterion

“This short book is reminiscent of pre-novelist Tom Wolfe books like The Painted Word and From Bauhaus to Our House, which told amusing but depressing tales about lefty politics making their way into the art world, making both art and politics worse in the process.”

National Review

“An ambitious new series that tackles the controversy of the topics explored with a mixture of intelligence and forthright argument from some excellent writers.”

The Observer

“An elegant and necessary salvo in a new culture war.”

Quillette

“The New Philistines stands out from its peers because it is a work prompted by a love of the beautiful rather than scorn, and by a willingness to have the soul disturbed as long as it is moved. Any artist worth their salt should hope for such an audience.”

Washington Free Beacon

“Timely and devastating.”

Douglas Murray, The Spectator

“Very articulate and well-argued.”

The Herald (Glasgow)

“Barn-burning ... The New Philistines is no tirade written by a grumpy Grandpa Simpson. It reads more like the marvels of a stranger in a strange land.”

Michael J. Totten, City Journal

“Compelling ... The New Philistines is a very welcome critique of identity politics’ impact on art. It ought to be recommended reading for anyone who cares about the future of the arts, regardless of political views or aesthetic tastes.”

Alexander Adams, Spiked
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  • ISBN: 9781785901591
  • 20 October 2016
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