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Modern Art touching Modern Life
Pablo Picasso - Three musicians
The stunning depiction of inanimate bronze brought to life through passion, vision and the sheer talent oozing through the fingers of the sculptor, is alive and well in the Rodin gallery in Paris.
Modern art probably began with Picasso, whose whimsical askew view of reality showed that art did not have to be representational to be inspiring. I have used two photos of my favourite Picasso paintings to illustrate this point.
Picasso's signature style also radiates in his fine art that reveals itself through a dozen mediums over nearly eighty years of prodigious output. It’s hard to pinpoint what he is doing, it’s not arbitrary, yet glancing at his imitators; you realize the special genius it takes to create non-representational masterpieces.
Although, whatever they are doing is not arbitrary either, it is not the pure genius of Picasso.
Andy Warhol in the 1960’s, began to produce his talentless works, most famous are his autographed soup cans. The art was defined entirely by the fact that the artist said it’s art.
Why is Modern Art so Bad? Prager University
Tate Modern and Gagosian Gallery
In London, and a visit to the Tate Modern may result in your brow furrowing with incomprehension as you gaze upon a rectangular grid of pastel dots which is apparently worth $3 million. Surely, a shark immersed in formaldehyde or a shelf full of pill bottles would be more at home in a natural history museum and not at the Tate displayed as art?
These are projects by Damien Hirst, who has made himself extremely wealthy with his works. They appear willfully bland in vision and for the most part Hirst doesn’t create them himself, he has the idea and pays someone else to produce it.
You probably look at a row of pill bottles identical to a Hirst work every time you have opened your bathroom cabinet but I doubt you find much inspiration in it.
Despite, these thoughts, people line up to see this special exhibition. In fact a hedge fund manager, Steven A Cohen, paid over $8 million for the shark, labelled The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living 1991.
The original shark began decaying by the time it was bought, so Hirst provided a replacement. Cohen could have obtained an identical shark and put it in an identical display tank for a fraction of the price he paid for Hirst’s, yet he chose to purchase this display.
Hirst ended his 17 year association with the Gagosian Gallery in New York in 2012.
M&M art by Hirst valued at over $3 million
One wonders then, why a Rembrandt will fetch a price of tens of millions while an accurate copy that requires forensic analysis to tell the difference, is a worthless forgery. Although Hungarian, Elmyr de Hory forgeries have become expensive collector’s items in their own right, since his death. No doubt, the unifying thread is authenticity.
Historically the rich and powerful conspicuously displayed the wealth and power by hiring artists to fill their worlds with beauty. At the turn of the 20th century, mass reproduction allowed anyone to enjoy fine art and music at home.
The upper crust found themselves in need of another way of distinguishing themselves. One possibility was rarity, and the Old Masters, who starved for most of their lives, become priceless once they were dead, and subsequently documented originality sets the price, not the mere fact the painting is lovely.
Picasso - Girl before a Mirror
Picasso’s talented otherworldly take on the world quickly progressed to near obscurity as galleries and artists discovered there was a huge market for ‘different’ art to set apart those who ‘could understand it’ from the common folk.
Our innate human aesthetic sense termed ‘different’ in this sense as ‘incomprehensible’ or ‘hollow.'
The reason Damien Hirst can sell his pill bottle shelf for millions of dollars and you cannot sell your equally uninspiring shelf is not due to a form of genius that you don’t understand. It’s that Hirst has developed a mutually reinforcing network of galleries, critics and dealers who assure buyers that he’s a genius only the elite can appreciate.
Perhaps this is an art form in itself, but if you mentioned that the work was banal or cliched in this company, you would be admitting that you just don’t get it.
This brings us to the story of the emperor with no clothes. If a lot of powerful people believe that air is cloth, then going naked is the fashion.
“Authentic” applies to the stamp of peer approval and not to experience.
In their search for peer approval, those who flock to praise the mundane at the Tate Modern, tread heedlessly over dozens of beautiful art-deco manhole covers on their way from the Southwark Tube stop. Each of these humble artifacts is the inspiration and creativity of some unknown craftsman.
Modern art sells because people want to differentiate themselves, just as intolerance sells because people want to avoid being differentiated, the most offensive example of which is that exercised by Sharia Law.
Inherent in both is the concept of social worth, to be exclusive rather than excluded. In both cases, a social group has assumed the right to dictate what should be found acceptable. In both cases, money and power are found in those who draw the line.
The one difference being that nobody suffers through the elevation of the mundane to art, except perhaps those who have to endure repeated gallery openings.