Artists want patrons, and buyers want inventive items that mirror their standing. Traditionally, the nice buyers had been robust people in societies whose dynamism created surplus wealth: Lorenzo de’ Medici for Leonardo da Vinci in Renaissance Florence, or the British shipowner Frederick Richards Leyland, who in 1876 commissioned the dressmaker Thomas Jeckyll and the painter James McNeill Whistler to create a “Peacock Room” for his London house. American patronage first of all adopted this individualistic development—in 1943, Peggy Guggenheim commissioned Jackson Pollock to color his greatest image but for her Big apple townhouse. After 1945, on the other hand, a brand new type of inventive patronage arose, reflecting the upward thrust of that icon of midcentury capitalism, the American company, and developing a brand new style: what Alex J. Taylor calls “company modernism.”
Mr. Taylor’s “Sorts of Persuasion” is a well-researched, revealing account of the way avant-garde artwork and design crammed the “fishbowl foyers” of Midtown Big apple, the imaginations of board contributors and the wallet of a fortunate few artists, together with Andy Warhol, James Rosenquist and Pablo Picasso. Mr. Taylor, an artwork historian on the College of Pittsburgh, rejects the still-popular fiction that the avant-garde artwork of the Sixties was once in the leading edge of the political left, or that “sovereign statements of unbiased creativity” corresponding to Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup” sequence have been “emancipatory expressions of resistance towards the cultural norms of midcentury society.” Somewhat, the writer suggests, company modernism was once a collaboration between firms and artists: “trade artwork,” as Warhol later referred to as it.