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Reproduction of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1990s

Contemporary, USA

picasso, les demoiselles d'avignon

New York City (publisher), Hong Kong (printer)
Fragment of a page from a book; ink and colors on paper
Via the New York Times

The Museum of Folly was, regrettably, unable to purchase the original painting by Pablo Picasso of Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (1907). This reproduction was torn out of an art history textbook.

David Galenson, an economist at the University of Chicago, has proposed an exquisitely stupid method of determining the greatest artworks of the twentieth century. He simply counts how often a work is reproduced in textbooks. “Quantification,” Galenson complains, “has been almost totally absent from art history.” Using this method, Galenson has definitively determined that the top five most important artworks of the twentieth century, in order, are:

  1. Pablo Picasso, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1907
  2. Vladimir Tatlin, The Monument to the Third International, 1919-1920
  3. Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty, 1970
  4. Richard Hamilton, Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So Different, So Appealing?, 1956
  5. Pablo Picasso, Guernica, 1937

MoFo applauds this marvelously simpleminded approach. By applying the quantification approach to literature, for example, we can also determine the most important works of U.S. literature, simply by referring to best-seller lists. Such a list of great literature would include the following works, all number one best-sellers (one best-seller has been chosen from each decade of the twentieth century):

  • 1900s: Frances Little, The Lady of the Decoration
  • 1910s: Zane Grey, The U. P. Trail
  • 1920s: Zane Grey, The Man of the Forest
  • 1930s: Grand Duchess Marie, Education of a Princess
  • 1940s: Bob Hope, I Never Left Home
  • 1950s: William Brinkley, Don’t Go Near the Water
  • 1950s: Pat Boone, ‘Twixt Twelve and Twenty
  • 1960s: Jacqueline Susann, Valley of the Dolls
  • 1970s: Erich Segal, Love Story
  • 1980s: Joan D. Vinge, adapt., Return of the Jedi Storybook
  • 1990s: Alexandra Ripley, Scarlett: The Sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone with the Wind”

Museum visitors wishing to explore the twentieth century’s greatest works of literature are advised to begin with this remarkable list.

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Time: August 8, 2008, 5:03 am

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Time: January 10, 2011, 6:08 pm

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