2013 Finalist

Modris Eksteins

Solar Dance: Genius, Forgery, and the Crisis of Truth in the Modern Age

Solar Dance: Genius, Forgery, and the Crisis of Truth in the Modern Ageby Modris Eksteins

Solar Dance is a fascinating work of cultural history, and a provocative analysis of the roots of the modern era as it developed in the social and political turmoil of the early 20th century. At the heart of this analysis is an account - clear, suspenseful and surprising - of the life and work of Vincent van Gogh. This inner story is not so much a biography of the artist or an assessment of his artistry as it is an explanation for van Gogh's rise to celebrity and his dominance in the market for modern art right up to the present day.

While the life and work of the artist are given sufficient attention to establish his qualifications for iconic status in modern art, Eksteins' interest is more in the posthumous van Gogh, his embrace by the leading gallerists and dealers in Weimar Germany against the backdrop of sexual, social and political revolution, and his pulp celebrity as the result of the extraordinary case of Otto Wacker, modern dancer turned art dealer and salesman of van Gogh forgeries. Within a breathtaking sweep of historical connections, Eksteins relates the celebrity cult of van Gogh to the cultural and psychological underpinnings of the Nazi rise to power, and the issues of reproduction, forgery and expert witness in the Wacker trial to the broader crisis of truth in our world today.

Solar Dance is as rich in imaginative speculation as it is in its wealth of detail. It will provoke deep thinking about the nature of genius, about authenticity in life and art, and about the contradictions of our age. Perhaps also, given the excitement of such thinking, it will reinstate imaginative speculation - based always on the most rigorous of research - as a virtue in the writing of history.

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