This is in the plural here. But I think it should be singular because Hemingway was trying to make art for his age. "For the ages" refers to the now and the future, like "now Mandela belongs to the ages(history)".
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It could be used as a plural noun, referring that he needed to fashion art to last for ages.
If it"s used as a singular noun, it would mean he needed to fashion art for the age, referring to his era.
I feel that "ages" isn"t wrong, as they might mean that he wanted to make art that last a lot time, compared to making art only for his age. Like the comment on the original question, if I were a writing, I"d want my works to last through ages, rather than only for this era we"re in.
“For the ages” is an idiom meaning something that will last across many ages, something that will be remembered for a long time. Here, ages are historical periods, like in the expression Middle Ages. A quasi-synonym in this sense is era.
In this sentence, “fashion art for the ages” means making artwork that will still be relevant and appreciated in many centuries. Given the mention of Turgenev and Tolstoy, I presume that the person is a writer who is exhorted to learn from the masters but not copy them and instead produce original writings so that he will be remembered as an important writer.
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