Burnham on "Sculpture's Vanishing Base"

T.K. Sabapathy

Footnote 11, Chapter 3, of the author's Arts and Thoughts which Singapore National Museum published in 1998. It appears in the Post Colonial Web with the kind permission of the author, who of course retains copyright.

Burnham, J., Beyond Modern Sculpture. The Effects of Science and Technology on the Sculpture of this Century, George Braziller, New York, 1978, p.19. For a rigorous analysis of the status and treatment of the base, see 'Chapter One. Sculpture's Vanishing Base', Ibid. p.19-48. Towards the end of his discussion, Burnham distinguishes the new from the old along the following lines: "The base belongs to an older conception of art, typified by a reverence for irreplaceable objects. In some cases, the art object emanated transcendent qualities. Thus, the sculpture base bestowed an apartness; it physically defined the aesthetic distance which necessarily remained between the viewer and art object. To a marked degree this relationship has changed. Gross familiarity with objects, artistic or not, results from the mass production of man-made things. This has undermined the protocol of the viewer - object relationship.", Ibid. p. 43.

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Last updated: 11 January 2001