And it is a matter of no little embarrassment to the art establishmentthat exhibitions of the work of high school students are often as goodas the work of professional artists—quite often better. The enthusiasm of youth is frequently more palatable than the glib posturings of middle age—particularly when the latter is accompanied by the usual patina of garbled, half-digested, philosophy.

[…]

The same curve of decline can be found in photography. Whereas once we had Kertesz, Robert Frank, Bill Brandt—not to mention Cartier-Bresson—now the closest thing we have to an Art-Photographer-for-our-time is, or was, Robert Mapplethorpe. And when you take away the sensationalism in Mapplethorpe what you are left with is a photographer who had an extremely limited technique and an even more limited style. That style consisted in lighting everything to make it look dead and stuffed. Mapplethorpe even manages to make flowers look stuffed.

[…]

If one considers all of these bleak scenarios together what you have is this: Art is effectively dead. In our culture there is almost nothing being produced that is capable of galvanising an intelligent population to take interest, or when there is, it palls alongside the far superior work of the recent past—making one suspect that the intelligence of the intelligent public is being considerably over-rated.

[…]

We have such continual access to the art of the past that we don’t care that what is being produced today is largely just vulgar schlock—poorly made, ineptly conceived, driven more by a theory of what art should be, than any powerful vision of what it must be if it is to add to our lives, rather than take away.

[…]

To begin to undo the damage that has been done it is necessary for us to completely re-examine the two imperatives that brought us here: the need to progress and the need to de-represent. The former is a simple absurdity (who could seriously maintain that drama has progressed ever upward from Shakespeare to George Bernard Shaw?), defended only by an avant-garde in desperate need of self justification. (And an avant-garde that is, we might note, the very group that is so crankily suspicious of the idea of progress whenever it is deployed elsewhere.) The latter is a bundle of philosophical mistakes and conflations that most philosophers working today would treat with the utmost scepticism. If we are to save our art—and it is, I believe, still possible for it to be saved—then we must re-invent the Avant Garde with a new sense of what we find deep and powerful. We should cease to listen to post-modernists as they attempt to rationalise the inept, fatigued, detritus of the contemporary art scene. We should listen once again for those arts that have found their way home, to some sense of the sublime. In doing this we might save ourselves as much as our culture.

Adrian Heathcote, Death of Art, Proceedings of the Russelian Society, also Philosopher Magazine., 1994