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Modern Art touching Modern Life

Updated on April 13, 2015

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

Damien Hirst

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


Just wondering

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.

Why modern Art Insults Me - Lindy Beige


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    • CyberShelley profile imageAUTHOR

      Shelley Watson 

      4 years ago

      Nell Rose, Thanks for dropping by and leaving you're always interesting comments. I too prefer representational art, and the pretentiousness of Hirst's 'art' to me is unfathomable.

      starstream, so kind of you to drop by and comment. Thank you.

      FlourishAnyway, Thank you for your marvelous succinct comment - as always you hit the nail on the head.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      4 years ago from USA

      Yes! Your comparison to the Emperor who had no clothes could not have been more appropriate!

    • starstream profile image

      Dreamer at heart 

      4 years ago from Northern California

      Art is a way for unique expression of the human soul like writing. It is a wonderful way to step outside yourself and fly free in this world. Enjoy and support the arts today!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      4 years ago from England

      Hi, to me art is something that I can see as art, if you know what I mean! we are made to look silly if we just don't 'get it' and of course its just pretentiousness that makes us all agree its art, so we don't look 'wrong' if you like, Picasso always leaves me cold, but at least it is art, the spots on the other hand are just as I said, pretentious, interesting stuff Shelley, voted up and shared! nell

    • CyberShelley profile imageAUTHOR

      Shelley Watson 

      4 years ago

      DDE, thank you so much for your lovely comments.

      billybuc, Thank you for dropping by and your enthusiastic comments, always appreciated.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm all for anything art-related. We needd to save the arts, promote the arts, and shout the arts from rooftops. Society needs them, and I applaud any article like this one that spreads the word.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Art is beautiful and very interesting. The form of art makes everything feel so natural around you. All forms show something meaningful.


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