The Spirit of Secular Art: A History of the Sacramental Roots of Contemporary Artistic Values explains the spiritual prestige of art. Various theorists have discussed how art has an aura or indefinable magic. This book explains how, when and why it gained its spiritual properties. The idea that all art is somehow spiritual (even though not religious) is often assumed; this book, while narrating the historical trajectory of art in the most accessible language, reveals how the mysteries of religious practice are abstracted and saved through all stages of secularisation in European culture.
The Spirit of Secular Art presents a coherent theory defining the sacred basis of Western aesthetics. It evocatively describes the afterlife of the holy from Ancient Greece to the present, and outlines how the mysterious institution of art can be explained in material terms. Unlike other books in the genre, The Spirit of Secular Art radically deconstructs traditional art history in terms of ‘prestige’ and the value of the non-material. The book functions as:
- an alternative critical history of art, integrated with the histories of literature and belief
- a philosophical essay on the fundamental values of art and religion
- a critique of the spiritual conceits of contemporary aesthetics and art appreciation
Robert Nelson is Associate Dean in the Faculty of Art and Design at Monash University, Australia, where he lectures in art history and research methods. He is the author of many scholarly and polemical essays and reviews in journals such as Photofile and Artlink. Robert Nelson is also the art critic for The Age, a major Australian newspaper, and is the author of over 700 published newspaper articles. In 2000 he was the recipient of the national Pascal Prize, which recognises the contribution of arts criticism to Australian culture. He is the author of The Visuality of Painting (forthcoming, IB Tauris).