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Fine Art, Good Design,
Hard Currency

By John Jervis

Can art survive when design and commerce move in?

WU XIAOHAI, A Week, 2013, three reels of corrugated paper, diameter: 120 cm each. Courtesy Art Museum, Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing.

By the mid-1970s, the tensions within product design were evident to even the most ardent Modernist. Maintaining industrial design as a functionalist, engineering-based pursuit was becoming increasingly unattainable. All-seeing, populist über-designers were emerging, exploiting new technologies with brisk élan to advance unfettered creativity and a slightly lumbering intellectualism. The…

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