AIDS completely changed American culture. People always say “pop culture.” As if we have some high culture to distinguish it from. The effect of AIDS was like a war in a minute country. Like, in World War I, a whole generation of Englishmen died all at once. And with AIDS, a whole generation of gay men died practically all at once, within a couple of years. And especially the ones that I knew.
The first people who died of AIDS were artists. They were also the most interesting people. I know I’ve said this before, but the audience for the arts—whether it was for writing or films or ballet—also died and no longer exists in a real way. So all the judgment left at the same time that all this creativity left. And it allowed people who would be fifth-rate artists to come to the front of the line. It decimated not just artists but knowledge. Knowledge of a culture. There’s a huge gap in what people know, and there’s no context for it anymore. — Fran Lebowitz*
Daniel Mendelsohn will moderate the panel THE POWER OF THE ARTIST at the Kitchen.
Monday, February 3, at 6:30 pm
512 West 19th Street, New York City.
*“The Voice: Fran Lebowitz,” interview by Francesco Clemente, Interview, March 2016.
From top: Jeremy O. Harris; Fran Lebowitz with Andy Warhol; Elizabeth Alexander. , photograph by Djeneba Aduayom. Photographs courtesy and © the subjects and the photographers. Above and below: Lisa Yuskavage, Bonfire, 2013–2015, oil on linen, diptych; Lisa Yuskavage, Naked Neighbors, 2019, oil on linen. Images courtesy and © the authors, the artist, the photographers, and David Zwirner.