i was talking to a colleague yesterday about the 'theory' course we require of our art history majors. five years ago, when i started teaching in the art department at dickinson, she and i both knew that theory was essential: that you just couldn't send someone to a high-powered graduate program without it: that art history was merging with art theory. now she kind of shrugged and wasn't sure it was so necessary. people now are back in archives, back teasing out the tiniest details, worrying about attribution, reading all the contemporaneous documents, etc.
i bet that it's kind of like that in art schools too (i used to teach all the theory/philosophy at maryland institute college of art). in 2000, everyone understood that you could be a web designer without reading barthes or baudrillard, but also that if we were actually going to produce any downtown art stars, we'd better get them on barthes asap. now i bet they're a bit back to hand skills and stuff.
another sign of the post-postmodern era.