There was some connection between beauty and freedom—a link I only made years later after immigrating to the U.S. as a teenager. The mullahs resorted to censorship and violence to sever that connection. But in the Free World today it has been severed, not by any repressive regime, but by the art world itself.
In today’s art scene, the word “beauty” isn’t even part of the lexicon. Sincerity, formal rigor and cohesion, the quest for truth, the sacred and the transcendent—all of these ideals, once thought timeless, have been thrust aside to make room for the art world’s one totem, its alpha and omega: identity politics.
Now, identity has always been at the heart of culture. Who are we? What is our nature? How are we—as individuals and as groups—distinct from each other, from the animals, from the gods or God? But identity politics cares little for such open-ended questions. Its adherents think they already have all the answers, a set of all-purpose formulas that tell you who’s right and who’s wrong at a particular intersection of identity, power and privilege.