Ahmari was raised in Iran while the “cultural revolution” busied itself purging the academy and cultural institutions of anyone who might “create the wrong kind of art, or hold the wrong opinion about [it].” The revolutionary vanguard spent its time in libraries blacking out images of nudes. “That a theocratic police state could be this afraid of Renaissance nudes in books taught me early on about the power of great art and its connection to human freedom,” writes Ahmari.
But what has that to do with the art of the West, where artists are free to create as they please, and critics to write what they want? For well over a hundred years the smashing of traditional forms has become business as usual in the world of high art and, as for subject matter, anything goes. Only of late has a retraction of freedoms been promulgated, and – setting aside reactionary religious forces such as Islamism – this urge to censor and restrict has come from inside the art community itself, which consistently seeks to impose a worldview that aligns with prevailing theories of social justice.