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How Jackson Pollock became so overrated

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There’s an overlooked reason for Pollock’s fame. Even if you love him, you might not know the name of the man who made him famous.

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Jackson Pollock is one of the 20th century’s most famous artists. But do you know the critic who made his reputation?

Clement Greenberg is a well-known name in the art world, but not necessarily to art fans. However, he earned a reputation as one of the most influential art critics in the 20th century, whose legacy included the canonization of Jackson Pollock.

Abstract expressionist art needed vocal champions to support challenging, unique work, and Greenberg was the most powerful and vocal in his defense of the art and, in particular, Jackson Pollock. Greenberg went from tie salesman to intellectual in less than a decade, thanks to strongly worded arguments for a new artform. Jackson Pollock was one of his favorite artists, and the two spent time together socially as they simultaneously climbed in the art world.

Is Clement Greenberg the reason that Jackson Pollock is so famous? He’s definitely a part of it — and understanding the role of Greenberg and critics like him can be a useful tool to understanding art in the 20th century.

Overrated is a series that takes a look at the things we all know — the books, the trends, and the ideas that have become iconic — and answers the question: “Why is this so famous"?

Vox.com is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines. Check out http://www.vox.com.

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