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The Art Capital of the Western World
No one country or geographical area has ever maintained a monopoly on the development of art. Down through the ages, the "art capital" of the western world has moved about the Mediterranean with considerable frequency. We are all aware that some of the earliest painted surfaces were in the numerous limestone caves in the south of France. When we next find a highly developed artistic culture it has jumped to the opposite end of the Mediterranean to the Nile Valley and attached itself to manmade limestone walls where it glowed for a more than a thousand years. From there it used the Islands of Cyprus and Crete as stepping stones to move to Greece and the Ionian Sea shores. There it bloomed for another thousand years or more before moving on to the Italian peninsula, Rome, and the far-flung provinces governed from this great city. After about five hundred more years moved it back to the Western Mediterranean and the Byzantine regions.

After a respite of another thousand years, the Renaissance found the capital of the art world back at home on Italian soil for a couple centuries or so before it gradually shifted northward and westward through Germany toward France where it kind of seesawed back and forth for another couple hundred years until those two countries got on one another's nerves to the point they started killing each other and scaring the movers and shakers of the art world so bad they started thinking seriously about putting an entire ocean between them and the reckless political nonsense that was behind it all. So after a war failed to settle things down on the continent, these artists, being particularly astute in terms of seeing the "big picture" insofar as artistic freedom was concerned, began quietly voting with their feet for an artistic "change of venue."

They came to America. It wasn't an easy decision. The "Yanks" were a rowdy bunch, unsophisticated, and just plain backward when it came to viewing the "avant-garde" artistic experiments these poor lost souls brought with them in their steamer trunks and perhaps more importantly, stowed in the backs of their minds. Living and working in America, especially in an era when even the natives themselves were having a rough time of it, took a great deal of perseverance, ingenuity, and good luck as they sadly watched from a safe distance their former civilisations self-destruct. But by the time the bloodbath in Europe was over, they were in a position to proclaim a new capital of art of the western world, that was literally in the Western World--New York City, New York, USA.

Contributed by Lane, Jim
22 November 1998

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