The fashionable French thinker of the decade and reigning high priest of media theory, Jean Baudrillard has taken a sizable segment of the art world by storm, and the list of artists who cite him as a central influence is long indeed (Haim Steinbach, Bruce and Norman Yonomoto, Meyer Vaisman, Jeff Koons, Peter Nagy, Robert Longo, to name a few).
Espousing a line of thought that begins with Baudelaire, reaches critical mass with Warhol and borrows heavily from Marshall McLuhan and Buckminster Fuller, Baudrillard isn't a particularly original thinker. He's filched more than a few bits from his fellow French theorists Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Paul Verdier, and Jean Francois Lyotard, in fact. Nor are his ideas--your basic Marxist post-structuralism--remotely revolutionary at this point.
Rather, the thing that has catapulted him into celebrityhood is his flair for parlaying the superficial into the epic, and his fearless embrace of radical overstatement and bitchy bon mots that read like ad copy.
Now 60, Baudrillard has written 18 books, all of which restate his central theory which boils down to this: The unending torrent of images that deluge modern life have debased reality to the point that reality no longer exists.