Hype, Hope, and Decline.
Despite some notable achievements, the American arts of the 1990s seemed to be gripped by an end-of-the-century cynicism, with profit governing product. Giving people want they wanted (or what marketing experts thought they wanted) seemed the primary motive in the entertainment and publishing industries. Movies were more violent and more dependent on new computer-generated effects than in earlier decades. The popular-music industry was dominated by grunge rock, rap, and teen pop. Broadway producers tended to play it safe with moneymaking musicals, including revivals of past hits, and they continued the 1980s trend of hoping that big Hollywood stars would find their theatrical roots and bring audiences with them.
The art world was shaken in 1989, when conservatives in Congress attacked the NEA for funding institutions that had provided grants to photographers Andres Serrano and Robert Mapplethorpe to create works that Senators Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) and Alphonse D'Amato (R-N.Y.), among others, considered morally offensive. In 1989 and 1990, in the midst of calls for the outright abolition of the NEA, Congress cut the NEA budget and required that works by funded artists must adhere to community standards of decency. Artists countered that such conditions discouraged creativity. Karen Finley, one of the artists...
(The entire section is 1024 words.)
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