Punk Art History: Artworks from the European No Future Generation

Intellect. Jun. 2023. 350p. ISBN 9781789387001. pap. $35. FINE ARTS
Berlin-based Danish art historian Skov writes an account of the provocative art, both visual and musical, of the 1970s punk movement, created by a generation of young people without jobs, without prosperity, and without hope for the future. Skov’s thesis is that punk artists saw themselves not as the avant-garde but as the rear-guard, a “no future” movement that rejected the idea of progress in favor of tearing down a world they believed to be doomed; central tenets were hedonism, trash, commercialism, anti-hero-worship, and the abject. In the work created by punks—canvases painted with bodily fluids; cigarette-vending machines rejiggered to dispense zines and smoke bombs; street art like graffiti and posters—the art world was another enemy to destroy; punk artists often didn’t identify their work as “art” at all. This book focuses on punk art and music created in London, Amsterdam, West Berlin, and Copenhagen from the late 1970s to the early 1980s, a punk scene less likely to be familiar to United States–based readers.
VERDICT Some of the heavily theoretical art-historical language might be impenetrable to lay readers, but Skov also describes incendiary punk artworks in vivid detail and with an eye for humor. The book is equally for scholars and for punk kids in cities with DIY music scenes.
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