Ever the bargain hunter, Walter Benjamin wrote from firsthand when he published his seminal essay on works of art and mechanical reproduction. Back in 1914, some 22 years before he wrote his treatise, Benjamin informed a friend that “I recently bought a very beautiful reproduction of a Rodin watercolor,” at the excellent price of one mark.

Twirl your leg around, twirl it right back; bend at the hip, come back upright. Lunge forward, bend down, lunge forward, stand stock-still.

“Pictures,” Douglas Crimp’s 1977 exhibition at the New York nonprofit Artists Space, featured the work of only five artists. But soon a whole Pictures Generation had emerged: Cindy Sherman, Robert Longo, Sherrie Levine, and a dozen others, whose deconstructive photography veered from straight representation of the world to appropriated images of mass culture.

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