Donald Kuspit’s The End of Art is a sustained defense of aesthetic experience, not from the standpoint of the aesthete, but from point of view of one committed to furthering "personal autonomy and critical freedom" through art in a world overwhelmed by the commercial, the trivial, and the ephemeral.
When works of art become consummately commercial — when commodity identity overtakes and subsumes aesthetic identity, so that an expensive work is uncritically accorded aesthetic significance, not to say spiritual value — they become everyday artifacts, thus reversing the ‘esthetic osmosis’ that Duchamp thought was the essence of ‘the creative act’. Aesthetic osmosis makes works of art evocative and engaging and even creates them, for it transforms ‘inert matter’ into a phenomenon the spectator is willing to call a work of art — a ‘phenomenon which prompts the spectator to react critically’, that is, to take seriously. 
Kuspit’s text is a call to seriousness as he brings to our attention the serious condition into which art has fallen. He joins with others in declaring the end of art. But he must believe it’s an end in appearance, not in fact — a failure of contemporary imagination and commitment. Kuspit is making what no doubt seems to him a last ditch attempt to recover from the remains of modernism an understanding and approach to art that enables "the aesthetic transformation of everyday experience of reality" , that resists "the resentment and repudiation of beauty"  — a dialectical beauty which never loses touch with the ugly inherent in all substantial beauty and on which it depends — that never loses its connection to "artistic contemplation" as "a way of caring for one’s psyche". 
When one looks at Otto Dix’s horrific images of trench warfare, his aesthetic transmutation of death and destruction into a weirdly beautiful scene gives us a certain perspective on it that is more critically effective — more consciousness raising, as it were — than any journalistic rendering of it. It is also more soul-saving, for it has a cathartic effect that no war photograph can have. The photograph may move us, but it will not rescue us from the unpleasant feelings it arouses in us, which is what Dix’s aesthetically brilliant images do in the very act of evoking such feelings. The photograph shows us the devastating scene, but Dix’s images not only show its devastation, but involve us with it, in a complex dialectic of identification and disidentification — shocked attachment and resolute detachment — similar to the dialectic of subject matter and form. In short, aesthetic autonomy is a prelude to personal autonomy, even a basic part of it. Human beings are not fully human without aesthetic experience. [37f]
I trust this very brief glimpse at Kuspit’s argument gives a sense for what he thinks may be lost during this age of "post-art". In the central chapters he gives an historical account of the rise of nihilism and entropy in the art of the 20th century, as well as the "turn inward" as a refuge from the debilitating effects and anomie of modern society. Kuspit presents a bleak, but realistic, assessment of the situation we find ourselves in today. The "crisis in criticism" discussed in our previous posts is symptomatic of a crisis in contemporary art as a whole. The prospects of survival on Kuspit’s view and from the position of one who has been at the center of, and active in, the artworld for most of his adult life, are not good. But he accepts, albeit implicitly, a Pascalian wager, recognizing that while the likelihood of preserving art’s power to deal with what often seems a tragic and meaningless existence may be vanishingly small, the only hope is to assume the possibility of some measure of success and to do what you can to achieve it.
The question is to what extent one accepts Kuspit’s analysis and shares his values. What does he capture that’s "essential" and where does he go wrong?