Modern Art

Discussing art and media trends and organisations generally

Modern Art

Postby Gavin » 24 Jun 2012, 18:09

You would perhaps be quite proud of your four year old if they made this in playschool:

Image

Obviously it's nothing special, you would think. It's no Bridgman...

Image

...for example, but it's okay for a four year old.

Thus it is interesting to note that it recently fetched £460,000 at auction. It's by Damien Hirst and it's called Untitled. It's not surprising it's untitled since it doesn't say anything.

The vacuity, talentlessness and even the aesthetic mediocrity of most modern art is obvious, so the mystery is why people spend so much money on it. It seems to be a special market of its own, whereby the merit of the art is not important at all. What is on sale is sheer pretence, and what is demonstrated by the purchasers is not their taste in art but their rather their wealth. They demonstrate this by showing how prepared they are to throw money away on rubbish. One is reminded of the I Am Rich app.

I believe in the free market so I wouldn't stop people spending so much money on modern art, but I think they're fools to do so, and fools if they claim there is anything special about any of it.

I welcome any other views on modern art and, for the antedote to it, see here - one of the declared principles of the Art Renewal Center is:

"To repudiate the idea that development in art requires destruction of boundaries and standards, pointless emphasis on 'newness,' or pursuit of the bizarre and ugly as ends in themselves, and to expose as artistic fraud those works conceived only to elicit outrage."


I'm on their side!

n.b. We also have a thread on high culture but I thought I would give modern art one of its own. It is a subject ripe for ridicule.
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Re: Modern Art

Postby Elliott » 24 Jun 2012, 19:41

Perhaps this is where my experience of going to art college will have some real relevance.

I did (cannot say "studied") a degree in "Fine Art New Media" at one of the most prestigious art colleges in the world. (I can neither paint nor sculpt. I got in on the basis of some amateur pop videos I had made, some pretentious anarcho-political designs, and an interview.)

During my three years there, I was not once required to know anything of art history, whatsoever.

Lectures (one per week) were optional and rarely about art or artists; they were more socio-political. Given how interested I was in culture, politics and society, it's strange how boring those lectures were.

On the writing side, we had 1 essay per term, but only for the first two years because in the third year we had to do a thesis. So my entire academic output while at art college amounted to 6 essays and a thesis. One of my essays was on Kraftwerk, the others were anarcho-cultural, the thesis was techno-Marxist - nothing about art history and nothing about real life (puzzling, since by that time I had actually had some powerful life experiences, which just goes to show that learning really does need to be directed because even personal experiences can be ignored by the irresponsible/unwise learner).

The justification for this lack of academic rigor was two-fold:

  • "You're at art college, and you're no longer a child. Study should be self-directed."
    This is a worthy idea - but art students being art students, and the young being stupid...
  • "We believe in the artist creating, and learning how to create. It is essential that he is not encumbered with unnecessary academic work, but instead allowed maximum time to develop artistically."
The net result, for me and for I would guess most other students, was that they never developed any grounding. Of course, they were supposed to develop grounding, but were given no assistance or framework as to what that grounding should be (say, the history of Western art). So each one of them was operating in a vacuum. They might look to other artists but they too were operating in a vacuum, and, though there was undoubtedly some intellectual claptrap activity buzzing around any Hirst or Emin work, it did not attach to any history, and could as easily be dismissed as taken on-board, for it was all just so much clever garbage. You really just picked which drivel you wanted to support.

After three years at one of the most well-respected art colleges in the world, I had no idea what art was or what it was for. I had come up with my own vague formulation - "art is for the transmission of idea" - but that was of little use. You need knowledge as well as theories; furniture as well as rooms.

At the end, I walked around my degree show and realised that I couldn't make head nor tail of any of my colleagues' work. I had no idea what was going on around me, some kind of circus with people trying to be clever, trying to find the best way to evade being judged, to trick any questioner.

Without knowledge of what art is and knowledge of what previous generations of artists have done, and knowledge of Western (creative) history, the chances of an art work being meaningful are extremely slim.

Yes, there is a raw creative impulse in some people and yes, it is precious. Combined with an inquiring, intelligent mind, it is the basis for an artist. But the trap art education has fallen into is thinking that that creative impulse should not be refined, harnessed, improved or curtailed, but rather left to its own whims. Operating in ignorance, most whims are destructive - hence so much modern art is destructive, whether of morals, intellectual activity, culture, or art itself.

My degree show had an opening night. Of all the ridiculous upper-middle-class characters, I remember one woman in particular. She was holding a glass of wine, chatting in that serious yet trivial way that the art world seems to engender. She was white, in her mid 50s, with frizzly grey hair, and dressed very much like this except that there was very clearly no religious content to her dress. She was basically a professional bohemian, who had spent money and effort to ensure that whenever anyone noticed her, they would know she was "unconventional". When I spotted her I felt contempt for her, taking part in this circus of meaninglessness while pretending it was meaningful and worthy.

Meaningful art cannot come from the ignorant - you must either be knowledgeable of life or art history, preferably both. I think modern art will continue to be basically drivel until the following things happen:

  • art colleges require deep and broad learning of art history, especially Western art history since that is the tradition Western artists are working in
  • galleries do not cater to the work of people under the age of 25
Of course I wouldn't enforce either of these but I do think they would be good ideas, with the first being about 10x as important as the second.
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Re: Modern Art

Postby Darian » 24 Jun 2012, 20:00

I suspect my views are similar to most others on this forum. The only value art has is aesthetic value, if a piece of art has no aesthetic qualities then it is worthless. In fact it is less than worthless, as these alleged artists are often sustained by public money.

The fact that someone payed £460,000 for craft paper and stickers shows us that modern art is a market bubble, akin to tulip mania. The artist who made that seems to have more in common with Bernie Madoff than Michelangelo. Actual good art (Rembrandt, Botticelli) is a worthwhile and financially sound investment, but when the modern art bubble bursts there are going to be lots of angry investors I think.

As for for modern art's stated purpose of pushing the envelope or shattering taboos, that is also a sham. Is anyone these days really shocked by stuff like Piss Christ or Artist's shit? If modern artists really intended to shock people they would make pieces with racist or sexist themes, the only things that would shock a modern audience. Performance artists would do blackface shows, perhaps make an offensive racist caricature called "The Grinning Pickaninny" or something offensive. These are the things they would do if they truly intended to shock or "push the envelope", but if they did it would alienate them from all right thinking people. They do not really wish to shock or push taboos of course, only to display their allegiance to cultural Marxist ideas.
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Re: Modern Art

Postby Mike » 24 Jun 2012, 20:42

A little article from today that's appropriate for this new thread, I think. The latest vapid production from the most egregious art world poser (and hypocrite) of them all.
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Re: Modern Art

Postby Gavin » 24 Jun 2012, 21:08

Ah yes, I spent a while going to these ridiculous exhibitions (for comedy value mainly), so I know most of these galleries. I went to an event at the Serpentine and saw the most mediocre "art" exhibited inside the building (just everyday objects and large blown up but average photographs, really) and a great many posers with oversized sunglasses outside the building. Emperor's New Clothes.
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Re: Modern Art

Postby Elliott » 24 Jun 2012, 21:18

Darian wrote:I suspect my views are similar to most others on this forum. The only value art has is aesthetic value, if a piece of art has no aesthetic qualities then it is worthless.

I would have to dispute that, Darian. I think art is (or should be) far more than aesthetics; it has to be meaningful, otherwise it's just for decorative purposes or to show off technical skill, and we can buy wallpaper for decorative purposes and we can watch Hollywood blockbuster for technical skill. Art should be (and has been) something else.

But as I said before, I don't actually know what that other purpose is. Transcendence?

The fact that I am really left guessing would probably be seen by my tutors as a sign of success; their methods have worked, I'm a questioner, I don't presume to know anything, etc. But those people are naive. Somebody with my educational background should know what art is for.
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Re: Modern Art

Postby Mike » 24 Jun 2012, 22:45

Elliott wrote:But as I said before, I don't actually know what that other purpose is. Transcendence?


That's what I've always maintained. Great art - musical, pictorial or plastic - echoes some of the universals of human experience, with which we can identify.
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Re: Modern Art

Postby Caleb » 27 Jun 2012, 01:03

Elliott wrote:I would have to dispute that, Darian. I think art is (or should be) far more than aesthetics; it has to be meaningful, otherwise it's just for decorative purposes or to show off technical skill, and we can buy wallpaper for decorative purposes and we can watch Hollywood blockbuster for technical skill. Art should be (and has been) something else.


I agree entirely. To be honest, with regard to most old/classical art, I'm left cold also. Portraits, bowls of fruit, landscapes, etc. mostly bore me to tears. In probably 99% of cases, they're really just equivalent to someone taking a snapshot with their camera today. The art that really interests me is that which tells a story or conveys something of the human condition. I think those paintings that show Biblical or mythological stories are important, although one thing that has often annoyed me about them is the way the characters often wear contemporary clothes of the period in which the paintings were painted! Clearly, we'd laugh if we saw Biblical characters wearing jeans and t-shirts!

I also think paintings such as The Gleaners are worthwhile.

However, I do think technique is important to some extent. I think there was a deterioration in technique that began at some point in the second half of the nineteenth century (and perhaps before) which I don't like. I know the artists were trying to make a point, but I think it's sloppy work. In this respect, I don't think modern art has emerged out of nowhere. Probably like a lot of the cultural malaise in other fields, it has its roots that go back well over a century.

As for modern art itself, well, I see that as just another form of conspicuous consumption. Although they would claim otherwise, people who are interested in modern art are basically proclaiming that they have the money and/or leisure time (which is itself a form of conspicuous consumption) to indulge in a worthless pursuit. I think this is true of art and culture quite generally, even art and culture that I think is worthwhile, that there is an element of conspicuous consumption, but I think the difference between modern art and other art is that other art usually has another purpose too.
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Re: Modern Art

Postby Michael » 27 Jun 2012, 13:48

What is sad is that many art schools are turning out very good artists, people of genuine technical skill and aesthetic inspiration, but they go largely ignored.

To refresh myself I like to go and look at the paintings hosted by the Art Renewal Center's website. They have a very full online museum of paintings in the realist tradition, as well as showcases of stunningly beautiful artwork by living masters.
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Re: Modern Art

Postby Clare » 27 Jun 2012, 20:04

I went to an evening class on Philosophy of Art last year partly because I didn't understand Modern Art and partly because I wanted to try to make sense of my feelings about art. It left me with more questions than answers! I do recall an article by Hume ("Of the Standard of Taste") being particularly interesting. Hume emphasised the importance of a delicacy of taste and experience in evaluating art. There was another article (I forget the author) which focused on the definition of art and essentially because art is creative the definition of art must be open to evolving.

I think the role of art in society is fascinating, it reflects a part of society and we make inferences from that society. It's intertwined with history. Great artists are often where the money is (eg Florence in the Early Renaissance) and creating (at least some) works for the rich.

I should stress that I'm not a fan of modern art, I'm not sure I would consider it art. Some pieces can be quite interesting but more in a community project way (eg Jeremy Deller) rather than as art.

Perhaps I have misunderstood Darian but how does Piss Christ and Artist's shit relate to cultural Marxist ideas?
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Re: Modern Art

Postby Michael » 08 Aug 2012, 17:51

I wanted to bring this article from this month's New English Review to the forum's attention, "The Tyranny of Artistic Modernism" by Mark Anthony Signorelli and Nikos A. Salingaros. It is a nice dissection of what is wrong with modern art and architecture, echoing themes from Dalrmyple.

I have corresponded with Signorelli a few times and he has unfailingly replied with a thoughtful and courteous reply. He is one of the great counter-modernity thinkers of our age.
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Re: Modern Art

Postby Elliott » 09 Aug 2012, 10:28

That's a fantastic essay, Michael. Thank you.
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Re: Modern Art

Postby Caleb » 12 Aug 2012, 02:15

Yes, it's a great essay. It's also nice that one of the authors responds (even to people who disagree with him) in the comments section.
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Re: Modern Art

Postby Gavin » 14 Aug 2012, 18:34

Image

I had reason today to visit the northern town of Preston. I noticed two things: a massive abundance of Muslims, and the oasis that is the Harris Museum.

I was amazed to see what a lovely museum this is and what a wonderful collection of art it houses. I stood before a Waterhouse painting and many other incredible works. I had never heard of some of the artists but they were obviously highly skilled and it was just embarrassing to think of what passes for art today. Not only does it pass for art, of course, it is endorsed as such by the highest elites. Our forbears would never have believed we could have become so retrograde and come to admire such talentless rubbish.

The place was almost empty, but if you ever should happen to find yourself in this part of England, it could be the antidote to the other things you see around you.
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Re: Modern Art

Postby Elliott » 09 Sep 2012, 01:29

This is unbelievable. I really wish Damien Hirst would just crawl into a hole and never be seen again.

A 66ft sculpture of a naked, pregnant woman by the artist Damien Hirst will be erected in the seaside town of Ilfracombe, Devon, next month.
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