A Really Good Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art

by Jill Conner


Art critic Stefan Haus, based in Croatia, recently published A Really Good Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art, presenting old and new art terminology that call into question the paradoxical pillars of Modern and Contemporary art.  Over the course of nearly 200 pages, Haus provides lively editorial meaning to terms such as White Painting, Trouble, AmbitionGraduation and Xenophobia.

In response to the fast-paced art market that grew over the past 15 years, it seems nearly impossible to assemble a dictionary that reflects a similar magnitude. However Haus is quite clear in the book’s subtitle. This project brought more questions and more answers.

JC:  How long did it take you to put this together?

SH: It took me two and a half months to write it. Although to paraphrase Picasso, it took me more than 10 years.

JC: What was the process you used to identify the words? Are they global?

SH: I did look through some previously published art dictionaries and took the words I needed. I also took other words outside of art dictionaries. All of these words aim at one and the same thing: to get you away from Modern and Contemporary art which reproduces everything bad, and turn you over toward the search for art which would produce everything best: politics, culture, nature, humanity, time, freedom etc.

I used the obvious, most famous examples of artists – ones that “shine” in the “art market” and “art establishement” – only because these are the artists who are most on people’s minds, and as highly appreciated “masterpieces without a doubt,” a perfect target for the Dictionary.

JC: And how does this globalization set itself in relation to the art market in New York?

SH: Indeed, everyone in Dubai, Beijing, Sidney, Sao Paolo, Alaska, Johannesburg and Oslo ought to find it close to their hearts and minds. Artists in Croatia aren’t doing anything other than what Picasso, Giacometti and Santiago Sierra haven’t done – only in a less talented way. The art market in New York, and elsewhere, is something I often follow only because it deals with great works: bad works done in a great way.

As the word itself says, globalization is global. Thanks to the media, everything that is happening in New York happens here in Zagreb too. If art in general wasn’t global, worldly and universal in a way that it shows what’s going on, why would we be concerned with it? So is the market along with the words of the Dictionary, but with a completely different agenda of course.

A Really Good Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art is available on Amazon.com

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