Culture

But Is It Art?

A new study challenges the merits of modern art

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Some years ago Spy magazine punctured the pretensions of the art world with a simple prank. It took a bunch of paintings by preschoolers and hung them in a Soho gallery, then recorded the remarks of art aficionados who showed up and said the gassy sort of things people generally say about modern art. The episode offered some vindication for anyone who ever looked at a modern painting or sculpture and scoffed, "My kid could do that."

But last week the art world enjoyed a few minutes of vindication itself, thanks to a study by two psychologists at Boston College. Angelina Hawley-Dolan and Ellen Winner paired genuine works of art by famous abstract impressionists with drawings made by children, chimpanzees, and elephants. Sometimes they labeled the paintings correctly and sometimes they switched the labels around or omitted labels altogether. Then they asked study participants which works they preferred and why.

Regardless of how the paintings were labeled, the study participants preferred the works by the famous artists 60 percent to 70 percent of the time. What's more, the subjects explained their preferences by indicating that the works from the pros seemed to have more intention and craft than the works from the children and the animals. As one news account put it, "this suggests a blue squiggle created by an artist as a means of expression is fundamentally different than a blue squiggle created randomly by a monkey holding a paint brush."

Take that, you philistines!

The study's results are interesting. Still: In defense of the philistines of America, one might point out a couple of things.

First, the experiment put the works of individuals who are supposed to be some of the greatest artists of the past century—such as Mark Rothko, whose works have sold for as much as $72.8 million—up against scribbles by children, chimps, and elephants … and the great artists barely managed to squeak to victory. When the paintings carried no labels at all, even art students preferred the famous artists' paintings only 62 percent of the time, and judged them to be better works of art only 67 percent of the time. "The chimpanzee's stuff is good, I like how he plays with metaphors about depth of field, but I think I like this guy Rothko a little bit better." Not exactly a ringing endorsement, is it?

Second, nobody ever had to do an experiment to find out whether people can tell the difference between a painting by a monkey and a painting by Monet. Nobody ever looked at a Rembrandt and wondered if, just perhaps, some merry prankster had given a pack of paints to a pachyderm and told it to go to town.

[article continues below video]

Take a hundred people off the street. Show them a kid's finger-painting next to a reproduction of, say, the Sistine Chapel or Bierstadt's "Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains." Ask them which one the toddler did. Five bucks says they'll get it right 100 times out of 100. Heck, even art majors could probably score a solid B-plus.

Some people in the arts community hate this sort of talk. Hate it, hate it, hate it. A few years ago Morley Safer did a "60 Minutes" segment titled, "Yes … But Is It Art?" Among other amusing moments, it featured an auction of contemporary works at Sotheby's in which the auctioneer, trying to correct a catalogue error, says, "Please note that the measurements for this work are reversed. It's actually a horizontal painting—I'm sorry, it's actually a vertical painting." (Again: not the kind of mistake you're likely to make with Renoir.) Reviewing Safer's segment, The New York Times quoted gallery directors denouncing the "60 Minutes" bit as anti-intellectual, smug, philistine, appalling, and reflective of "a sad decline in our society."

Well, maybe. But just because smart people can think of smart things to say about a work of art does not mean the work of art itself is inherently good, does it? Impenetrable, avant-garde art may speak to people trained in art history. Genuinely great art seems to speak to everyone. Some artists, fortunately, still think that's the whole idea. Maybe it's appallingly philistine to say so, but if there has been a sad decline in our society, it probably has happened inside the galleries, not outside.

A. Barton Hinkle is a columnist at the Richmond Times-Dispatch. This article originally appeared at the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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  1. A monkey in a top hat, fur coat, and a monocle. WTF are you trying to say?

    1. SPECIEIST!!!!

    2. He’s an obectivist.

      1. And you are just objectionable.

    3. The reason the emperor wore no clothes is because the only tailor available was Lady Gaga.

  2. A. Barton Hinkle Heimerschmidt
    His name is my name, too!
    Whenever we go out
    People always shout
    A. Barton Hinkle Heimerschmidt
    LA LA LA LA LA LA LA….

    I’m sorry, I can’t help myself.

    1. Whenever we go out
      People always shout

      There goes A. Barton Hinkle Heimerschmidt
      Lalalalalala

      FIFY

    2. I’m sorry, I can’t help myself.

      That’s because you’re beyond help.

    3. Word.

  3. As long as they don’t use my money (via taxation) anyone can call anything art. But unfortunately via various ways my money is being taken against my will to fund what others call art.

    1. How vacuous. Libertarianism is not everything, you know.

      1. Why is it vacuous? I did not say that I would call it art, I said that others can call it art of they want? They have the right to their own opinion. I don’t have to agree with it, but as long as I don’t have to pay for their art then the can have their opinion on art and I can have mine.

        1. To borrow a phrase from antiquity: duh. So what?

          1. You make no sense.

            1. I find it nonsensical to parrot the Standard Libertarian Disclaimer on every single topic.

              1. You suck at posting.

              2. I think you used the wrong word. Repetition is not nonsensical if the audience doesn’t understand the idea. It would be nonsense, if the idea didn’t apply or, make sense. It both applies, and makes sense.

                If you said that repeating the Standard Libertarian Disclaimer on every single topic, annoyed you, I would likely not have said anything.

                1. I do not understand the obsession to inject politics into everything. The article said nothing about government – is it routine for people to just inject their hobbyhorses into conversations where they have no relevance?

                  1. The underlying premise here is the definition of art. DJF simply said he doesn’t give a damn, if he’s not forced to pay for it.

                    If you don’t want to hear comments about how we like people to be able to choose for themselves, and we don’t want to be forced to subsidize those choices, why are you here?

                  2. Evidently, yes.

                  3. So you come to a website about political and economic philosophy, and are offended when politics is mentioned?

                    1. Is “Really” really Tony?

                2. “I think you used the wrong word. Repetition is not nonsensical if the audience doesn’t understand the idea. It would be nonsense, if the idea didn’t apply or, make sense. It both applies, and makes sense.”

                  That, sir (or madam), is even more nonsense. If the person the repetition is aimed at does not understand something, repeating it will not accomplish anything. Not even if you raise your voice (or use CAPITAL letters).

      2. That is the point. Not everything — in fact not most things (and some would argue, not any thing) — is the purview of politics.

        The fact that tax monies go to fund a practice of postmodern visual dis-semanticism, rather than funding technical prowess (like the commies did) or simply not being collected at all, in the name of (ironically) enriching artistic endeavors in the country really chaps my chaps.

    2. I agree completely. Same goes with a lot of things people choose to do, including various types of research, attending symphonies or football games, growing certain types of plants, and much more. I have no issue with investing in developing advancements in wind-turbines, if you are putting your money on the line, not asking the government to take mine to cover your risk. If art or music has value, then let people choose to spend their money on those things. If Corn has value to feed the masses, let those who eat or use it pay for it.

    3. I think the government should fund black velvet Elvis paintings.

      1. I’m actually pretty amazed that a big time established “modern” artist hasn’t adopted the paint on black velvet approach as some sort of ironic commentary on the tastes of the lowly masses. Given the choice between purchasing a velvet Elvis and some federally funded dipwad’s canned turds, I’ll take the Elvis.

      2. What about velvet black Elvis paintings?

  4. What do you call a guy with no arms and legs nailed to a wall…Art!!!

    1. No arms, no legs, in a pile of leaves … Russel.

      1. No arms, no legs, on your front porch?…Matt.

        1. Water skiing? Skip!
          Hot tub? Stew!

          Lady with one arm and one leg? Eileen!

          1. What if she’s Asian?… Irene!

            1. LLLLLAAAAAAAAAAAAACCCCCCCCCIIIIIIISSSSSSSTTTTTTT!!!!!!!11

            2. Irene say “Let’s wok the dog”

              1. sarcasmic +1

            3. Why not to read comments in Accounting class…

          2. No arms, no legs, under a car?….Jack.

            (I do believe I just made that one up, too)

            1. Damn half a second too late as I tried to get a link put into mine.

              1. Two arms, two legs and no brain?…Tony

                1. I love that bit!

        2. Man with no arms and no legs swimming in the ocean? … Bob.

          No arms and no legs under a car? … Jack.

          No arms and no legs in the bathroom? … John.

          No arms and no legs who is an inspirational speaker? … Nick

          1. Man with no arms and no legs swimming in the ocean? … Bob Dead.

            1. After the thrashing stops…Rock.

      2. No arms, no legs, waterskiing… Skip.

        No arms, no legs, on the ground in front of a door… Matt.

        1. What do you call an epileptic in a lettuce patch? seizure salad.

          1. I do believe you just earned an extra fifty years in purgatory for that one.

        2. A woman with no arms and no legs in the trunk of a car going down a steep hill?

          Jocelyn

    2. What do you call a guy with no arms and legs nailed to a wall…Art!!!

      They lack of punctuation leaves the meaning of your question ambiguous.

    3. Q: What do you call a man with no arms and no legs, but who can play 10 instruments?

      A: Stump the band.

    4. What do you call arms and legs hanging from the wall?

      Pieces of Art.

      1. Mexican woman with no legs?

        Consuelo…

  5. “Your husband’s work is what we call ‘outsider art.’ It could be by a mental patient, a hillbilly or a chimpanzee.”

    1. “It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times”?! You stupid monkey!

    2. *Homer is insanely smashing a metal object with a hammer*

      “Why – Won’t – You – Be – Art?!?!

    3. Your equating of a hillbilly with a chimpanzee offends me and the chimpanzee.

      1. So says someone from Fresno…

  6. Yeah the driver went sailing
    High in the sky
    Landing in the gold lap of the Lord
    Who smiled and then said
    “Son, you’re better off dead
    Than haulin a truckload
    full of hot avant-garde.”

  7. Lancelot Link, whatcha gonna do
    When mean Dr. Strangemind comes up to you???

    1. There’s Ali Assasseen
      And Wicked Wang Fu
      And Duchess has the looks that can really fool you

  8. Take a hundred people off the street. Show them a Liberty Dollar next to, say, a Federal Reserve Note and…

    …oh, we could probably play this game all day.

  9. No one could mistake a Rothko for a painting by a child, chimp, or elephant. They just might not like it as much. If I were in the habit of spending $72.8 million on a painting, I wouldn’t buy a Rothko.

    The fact that it’s possible to be confused about whether a painting is vertical or horizontal is not quite as stunning as the author assumes. If you mounted a fine Persian rug on a wall, should it be “vertical” or “horizontal”?

    1. At least with a Persian rug, there is some evidence of craft.

      1. Most art aficionados and art purists make a serious distinction between art and craft and for them the presence of any component of the latter rules out the piece as being the former. Just sayin’.

        1. Let’s rephrase it then. With a Persian rug there is some evidence of skill.

      2. And you can walk on it.

        1. And you can walk on it.

          Gravity aside, I like to keep footprints off my walls, tyvm.

          1. That’s why the rug is up there.

      3. And its creator, should he see it hung on your wall, is not likely to have a prissy fit about how you hung it wrong.

    2. No one could mistake a Rothko for a painting by a child, chimp, or elephant.

      True,

      Rothko’s works show much less imagination that those of monkeys and elephants.

    3. I’m looking at some of Rothko’s “paintings” right now, and I call BS. Yeah many of them could easily be attributed to a child.

      1. When I was in grade school we did some imitation “art.” Some of my classmates came up with more inventive “abstract” stuff. Mine was more blockish interpretation of imagery.

        This is more like a coloring book for robots.

  10. Of course it’s art. Art has evolved since the days of Rembrandt; it’s no longer constrained by the bounds of purpose or beauty. Anything which must be fit for a purpose or which must have a certain amount of inherent aesthetic appeal has commercial value, and thus lacks the bohemian nature of true art. Thus art today is that which is both useless and ugly. If you’re looking for something useful or beautiful, I suggest you look elsewhere.

    1. That comment was art.

    2. Sounds like you’re trying too hard there, Brian.

      1. I thought he was mocking Lillian Reardon’s bit: – but it’s just that a man of culture is bored with the alleged wonders of purely material ingenuity. He simply refuses to get excited about plumbing.

        1. Yeah, he’s bored until he has to do without those alleged wonders for awhile. Let him spend a few weeks squatting over a hole in the earth to relieve himself everyday and he’s liable to view that mundane indoor plumbing with newfound regard. If he’s also married to a bitch like Lillian, he’ll most likely appreciate the added benefit of getting her nagging ass off his back as well.

    3. Art is what cool, smug, sophisticated people say it is. And don’t forget it. If you can’t get on the post modern bus, you better just get out of the way.

      1. You are arguing that only people who are “cool”, smug”, and “sophisticated” have the power to judge what art is or is not? You have provided nothing to support that argument except for implying that if people don’t get on the post modern bus [by follow and agreeing] with those cool, smug, and sophisticated people, they will overpower those who don’t agree with them.

        You should clarify why only these people with these labels you have created can decide what art is, and what makes them different than those who cannot.

      2. You are arguing that only people who are “cool”, smug”, and “sophisticated” have the power to judge what art is or is not? You have provided nothing to support that argument except for implying that if people don’t get on the post modern bus [by follow and agreeing] with those cool, smug, and sophisticated people, they will overpower those who don’t agree with them.

        You should clarify why only these people with these labels you have created can decide what art is, and what makes them different than those who cannot.

    4. “Evolved” is missing a d on the front.

  11. The elephant paintings made a big impression on me.

    1. Ba-dum crash.

  12. While J Pollock tries to pick up girls
    And get called asshole
    This never happened to Pablo Picasso

    1. Not in New York.

  13. “The problem with being avant-garde is knowing who’s putting on who.” — Calvin

    1. Q: Are you putting me on?

      A: Not as we speak, but I’ll do it after the guests leave.

    2. Calvin:
      The hard part for us avant-garde post-modern artists is deciding whether or not to embrace commercialism. Do we allow our work to be hyped and exploited by a market that’s simply hungry for the next new thing? Do we participate in a system that turns high art into low art so it’s better suited for mass consumption?
      Of course, when an artist goes commercial, he makes a mockery of his status as an outsider and free thinker. He buys into the crass and shallow values art should transcend. He trades the integrity of his art for riches and fame.
      Oh, what the heck. I’ll do it.

      Evidently there are a lot of hard parts…

  14. So, rereading the article, it doesn’t say anything about the demographics of the study participants. While I agree that some modern art is crap, I also think it’s important to keep in mind that when the Glee soundtrack and LCD Soundsystem’s This Is Happening were released on the same day, the Glee soundtrack outsold LCD Soundsystem at a four-to-one clip, so it’s not like the average American is very good at distinguishing between art and crap.

    1. Music is 100% preferential; nationality is irrelevant.

    2. Um… Glee and LCD Soundsystem? I haven’t heard anything from Glee, and the one LCD song I heard that I kind of liked sounded like a rip-off of Pete Shelley’s Homosapiem

      1. I’ll concede that a lot of LCD Soundsystem is derivative (and I actually found each of their albums to be a bit of a diminishing return from the previous one) but pretty much anything is better than faux-teenagers doing showtune covers of (mostly) mediocre pop rock.

        1. Not all entertainment is art, not all art is entertainment.

          Some art is entertainment, and some entertainment is art.

          1. between glee and lcd soundsystem?

            whoever wins, we lose.

          2. Friend of mine calls Led Zeppelin “noise” and thinks Katy Perry is good. I am holding his man card for ransom. His taste in music sucks as much as his taste in sports teams. I shit you not:

            “I’m from Vermont so I got to pick whichever team I wanted. I picked the Dolphins. I guess I just like pastels.”

            How do these people find me and how can I get rid of them?

            1. “How do these people find me and how can I get rid of them?”

              Perhaps you should start hanging out at a bar where the men are the ones drinking beer and the women drinking fruity mixed drinks instead of the other way around.

            2. actually your friend is pretty on spot (by accident) about modern fandom. sports fans are really, by and large, graphic design nerds.

              1. +10

                1. @dhex

            3. Certain portions of Katy Perry are art, indeed.

    3. What makes the LCDSS album ‘better’ than the Glee Soundtrack other than cultural expectation and bias? All music is just the ordering of tones by arbitrary rules.

      —————
      I had an argument at work with a guy about something similar. I contended that Mountain Dew tasted better than the finest wine.

      Imagine a person hidden from society that has a rare disorder that keeps them from getting intoxicated from ethanol. Now stick a glass of wine, and a glass of mt dew in front of them and let them choose. I bet they’d choose the dew. Or how about some crackers and a choice between topping them with the finest caviar or american cheese?

      Most of it is the process of creation(whether or not it is seen as laborious and or authentic) and the pressure to show “taste”.

      It’s all chemicals and electronic impulses in the end.

      1. I think Patrick Swayze made your argument more succinctly in Road House:

        Steve: Being called a cocksucker isn’t personal?

        Dalton: No, it’s two nouns combined to elicit a prescribed response.

        1. Nice, I had forgot that quote.

          That you bring up Road House reinforces my point. 99/100 people(not here) would say that Citizen Kane is a way better movie than Road House, me I’d rather watch Road House. And they’re not showing Citizen Kane 3 times a week on cable teevee.

          So, am I a hick with no taste, or are the others phonies?

          1. I hate Road House.

            It insists upon itself.

            1. I found Road House to be shallow and pedantic.

              1. Opinions vary.

          2. Being one doesn’t preclude the existence of the other.

            Wine vs Mountain Dew is a facile comparison. Wine reveals itself in complexity; Mountain Dew in its unwavering sameness. Complexity takes context to appreciate, context that a tabula rasa drinker doesn’t possess. If, after a fair hearing of both, he wants to stick to Mountain Dew, bully for him. But that has no bearing on the authenticity of the wine experience for the aficionado.

            1. A jug of Paisano has all of the yummy aldehydes and ketones as a bottle of Monfortino in similar concentrations, what’s the objective difference?

              1. If they are chemically exact, then nothing. But unless they were decanted from the same barrel, odds are extremely thin that they are exactly the same chemically.

                All wine is not fungible; all Mountain Dew seeks to be.

                1. Well no, they are not chemically exact. But, they are similar enough that I would have a hard time believing that a person could distinguish between cheap and expensive wines. Not individually but collectively, maybe a taste test with 30 wines of various cost that a taster blindly ranks.

                  Like I said before expectations play a big part of this. When you believe that you are going to very soon engage in a pleasurable experience your brain will start releasing endorphins to prime the pump as it were. That is why I chose a blank state for my hypothetical, which as you point out has its own problems.

                  How about this:

                  Say you pay $200 for a bottle of wine and find out that instead of it coming from the vineyard they took the best vintage and exactly reproduced it with $5 worth of chemicals from off the shelf: Would you want your money back?

                  1. Also, if you cannot taste the differences between the different vintages of Mt Dew, then I feel sorry for you and your monkey palate.

                    1. the different vintages

                      Livewire and Hillbilly throwback Mountain Dew notwithstanding, Mountain Dew is a product that seeks to be identical. They be as happy as clams if 2005 MD and 2011 MD tasted exactly the same.

                      I am not immune to the pleasures of conformity; expectations are something to be met. But there is value in your expectations being the unexpected, rather than a even-keeled sameness.

                  2. Would you want your money back?

                    If there was fraud involved, of course.

                    1. Even if you were lied to,what have you lost?

                    2. $195. The value is on my terms, not yours.

                      Just like the steak sandwich a few weeks ago, you seem bent on confusing simplicity with authenticity.

                    3. I feel like this is about to turn into a discussion of “The Man in the High Castle.”

                    4. I feel like this is about to turn into a discussion of “The Man in the High Castle.”

                      While married to Anne and living in Point Reyes, Dick was very close to giving up writing. In an effort to make him pull his weight financially, Anne harangued him into helping her with her home-run jewelry business. Dick hated it. Dick made one piece that seem deemed to ugly to sell. In order to get out of helping her, he pretended to be writing in a shack out on their property. He toyed with using the I Ching as a way to plot a novel. He kept hiding out in the shack and pretending to write until be eventually began to actually write. It was The Man In The High Castle.

                      [related from my spotty memory]

                    5. Personally I don’t value ostentation for ostentation sake, but that is just me.

                      I like good wine too, but I was originally try to make a different point and got bogged down with this.

                      You will never forget that steak sandwich, will you?

                    6. You will never forget that steak sandwich, will you?

                      Nope.

                    7. Speaking of, I still need to try < a href=”http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/gallery/2010/apr/07/how-to-make-shooters-sandwich?INTCMP=SRCH”>this.

                    8. No space between < and a.

                  3. I think the big issue here is perceived value. If you think something is worth x, then it’s worth x to you. At the same time, just because it’s worth x to somebody else doesn’t mean it’s worth x to you. I won’t pay $200 for a bottle of wine because my untrained palate can’t perceive a $175 difference between that bottle and a $25 bottle of wine. But that doesn’t mean a wine enthusiast is wrong to spend $200 on it, nor does it mean I’m wrong to spend only $25 on a bottle of wine (or, in reality, $18 on a box of wine).

                    And as for your reproduced wine scenario, a couple years ago I spent roughly $100 to have eight bottles of beer shipped to me from Germany that probably cost $20 locally. If somebody was able to chemically recreate them with 100% accuracy, I’d gladly pay the same amount.

                    1. eight bottles of beer shipped to me from Germany

                      What were they? Don’t leave me hangin’, bro.

                    2. Two bottles of D?llnitzer Ritterguts Gose, two bottles of Brauerei Goslar Gose (one Helle and one Dunkle), one bottle of F?chschen Altbier, one bottle of F?chschen Weihnachtsbier, one bottle of F?chschen Silber and one bottle of Einsiedler Doppel Bock.

                    3. 25 bucks will buy a damn fine Rioja.

                    4. Well yeah, but this goes back to my original post(which was about music). I was wondering what makes some things objectively better and more cultured than other things outside of one’s own biases and expectations. I would say there is no objective “better” even though we try to treat some things as such.

                    5. I was wondering what makes some things objectively better and more cultured than other things outside of one’s own biases and expectations.

                      Nothing. Value is not an objective quality.

                    6. Nothing. Value is not an objective quality.

                      +1000 banjos

                    7. I think the virtue of the art has a lot to do with what it evokes in the viewer. If listening to Glee makes you feel better than Bach, that’s your issue.

                      However, I think that art is generally good or bad because human being are human beings, and certain responses will usually arise from certain stimuli.

                  4. I would have a hard time believing that a person could distinguish between cheap and expensive wines.

                    Telling the difference is easy. There will be people that prefer cheap wine (just like there are bastards that prefer blended scotch over single malt). But, it’s not that hard to tell the difference.

                    1. Actually, the average person cannot tell the difference. Only wine connoisseurs can.

                      http://www.wine-economics.org/…..E_WP16.pdf

                      http://www.freakonomics.com/2008/07/16/cheap-wine/

                    2. The banjo man is correct.

                      However, it is also true that more wines taste better when made expensive. That is, if you do not know the price, the average person cannot tell the difference. But if the price is known, high-priced wines — even the exact same wine — taste better than cheap ones.

          3. I know what you’re saying, and I agree to a point. But I guess my point is that if one is passionate about something (two obvious examples for me are music and beer) then you look for something more than the average consumer. Sure, there will always be instances where the emperor wears no clothes, but there are also plenty of instances where the value of a product (be it a beer, a song or a painting) is only perceptible to those who have a passion for the medium. The average consumer might not pick it up but that doesn’t mean it’s not there and that it’s not of value.

          4. As between Citizen Kane and Roadhouse, I’ll take Citizen Kane every time. And I’ve never seen Roadhouse. And I have no intention to.

      2. Well, I have several cases of Mountain Dew Throwback (real sugar — available here in the backwoods of Iowa) in the pantry and couple hundred bottles of premium red wines from around the world down in the cellar.

        They serve different purposes, so the comparison is useless.

        But to your point, even without the alcohol, the wines would be better than the Dew.

        1. If you paid thousands of dollars for all of that wine and then came here and said it was objectively the same as a hundred dollars worth of sugar water, you’d look pretty foolish, correct?

      3. I would substitute velveeta for American cheese. American cheese betrays a xenophobic war mongering imperilistic mindset, and an irrational fear of the petroleum byproducts that compose velveeta.

        1. In my mind, American cheese is like ketchup. You should outgrow it around age 13.

          1. Agreed.

          2. Not if you’re going for the texture and “mouthfeel” of it melted. Cheddar congeals and cools too quickly, even if it is melted thoroughly, which it often isn’t. Same with Swiss. This is not a good thing for a burger session.

            LCD Soundsystem, by the way, is cool, but I preferred the disco-punk of ’03-’05. I bring this up because I was vituperating about Glee having the most hits ever on the BB 100 the other night.

      4. Imagine a person hidden from society that has a rare disorder that keeps them from getting intoxicated from ethanol.

        Often I find myself thinking I’d drink a beer except I don’t want the alcohol at the moment. Beer, wine, etc. build suites of interacting flavors around the pungency of ethanol, and there’s no equivalent. Beer tastes good in a way for which there’s no competitor, in my opinion.

        Of course, it’s possible I am being “fooled” by the fact that my brain “knows” that the flavor of beer corresponds to the pleasantness of intoxication. But if that were the explanation, I don’t know why I should salivate thinking about craft ales but not budwasser.

  15. Skill without imagination is craftsmanship and gives us many useful objects such as wickerwork picnic baskets. Imagination without skill gives us modern art.

    1. Bullshit. Most modernists were extremely talented painters who saw that, largely because of the inventions of photography and mass production technologies that painting had to become something other than the creation of realistic images.
      And please, don’t confuse modern art with contemporary art. Modernism was a specific movement in art that mostly happened in the early 20th century. It is not a synonym for contemporary art and is most definitely not the same as a lot of the “post-modern” silliness that one sees in todays bloated art world.

      1. Dude, I’m pretty sure Tom Stoppard was aware of the difference and writing colloquially at the time.

  16. My art has been commended as being strongly vaginal, which bothers some men. The word itself makes some men uncomfortable: “vagina.”

    1. Links? I want to see how “uncomfortable” I get….

      1. Don’t be fatuous…

  17. jeez, i am really glad i’m not a descendant of the philistines.

  18. I hate the question “is it really art?”. It’s art if the creator presents it as art. That is the only reasonable definition of art.
    And the observation “my kid could do that” is also stupid and pointless. Your kid didn’t do that. And more importantly, your kid didn’t convince anyone that he was doing something interesting.
    There are many thousands of people out there who are excellent painters, etc. and lots of them can make a good living making beautiful things. But “serious art” needs to be something new, something that everyone doesn’t actually know about. Making good paintings that look like what they look like is great, but it doesn’t do anything new that hasn’t already been done for a long long time.

    1. I used to work for an artist. (Note: while he was somewhat abstract, there was obvious intent and imagery in the paintings – he wasn’t Jackson Pollock) One time a delivery guy, seeing one of the paintings, actually said “my four-year-old could do that.”

      I looked him for a second, and then said “you must be very proud.”

      1. You never pass up a chance to mention your nude modelling days.

        1. Quit complaining, or quit asking for photographs.

            1. Wait just a goddamn minute. I see a Ruger MkIII there and we have a regular poster on here who just bought one…..showing off just a bit, are we waffles?

    2. I think the real problems come with the modern deconstructionist approach to art. All interpretations is left to the critic, whose main challenge is to come up with the most profound analysis possible while ascribing no value to the intent of the work’s creator.

      In this environment, the artist is encouraged to be as opaque and impenetrable as possible. Why waste your time trying to communicate an idea or value, when your customers don’t care about or value directness? All the critics want is an excuse to bloviate and bullshit about some hidden meaning that only they can perceive due to their vast intellect and superior faculties.

      1. Art needs to return to the days where it is contracted. The problem with art nowadays (moreso than the music industry) is that for the galleries it is just produced, but there isn’t a specific buyer yet. So the value is not intrinsic but assumed.

        I think Basil Hallward could make a pretty penny these days.

      2. Postmodernism has it’s advantages and disadvantages. The advantages being that mediums and styles before this period were even more controlled by the academic elites. They could declare certain works garbage by virtue of their years of art study and by use of the artist’s biography or personal statements, they could veto works as valid art if those opinions didn’t match their sensibilities.

        Postmodernism at least tries to break some of this up. Rock music, graphic design, and comics were considered commoner trash at one point and would be considered unworthy of comment before. But now, any average Joe can derive as much or as little meaning from these works as they want if they can argue it, essentially democratizing the artistic canon.

        The leagues of mind-screw artists and head-up-their-ass critics are just a vocal niche of this mindset. While not completely useless, I doubt most of them will be remembered in the distant future.

    3. And the observation “my kid could do that” is also stupid and pointless.

      In other words it annoys you, and have no actual argument.

    4. If you have to explain a joke, it failed; if you have to explain art, it failed.

      As far as I can tell, post-modern art is all about the inside joke; cool for artists, but not so much for anyone else.

      1. I’ve said the same thing. Art should be sensory. If it requires an explanation, you should either be a writer or you’re trying to provide your own historical/cultural context for the annals of a museum. How arrogant can one be?

        I usually enjoy art less after reading the accompanying description, which is usually a sampler platter of PC new age buzzwords. “..shows the sensuous diversity of social awareness reactions in the transphobic phantasmagoria of life wakings.”

    5. It’s art if the creator presents it as art.

      So when the dude took a dookie into a tin can and then sealed it and proclaimed it art, it was?

      Nah, not buying it.

      1. I call that free speech

        1. Shitting in a can is speech?

        2. And whether or not it’s speech, WTF does that have to do with whether it’s art?

    6. And more importantly, your kid didn’t convince anyone that he was doing something interesting.

      Like, you know, a good con man does.

      1. Or a politician.

        Wait, same thing. My bad.

    7. Zeb, you define art by saying “It’s art if the creator presents it as art”, implying the qualification is subjective to the artist’s intent. Then you state, “”serious art” needs to be something new”. Which one is it? Or am I missing the difference b/w art & what you call “serious art”? Sounded like you made the “art is everything” claim, then tried to narrowly define art.

    8. “It’s art if the creator presents it as art.”

      “And more importantly, your kid didn’t convince anyone that he was doing something interesting.”

      Which is it? Other people judging it as interesting seems to preclude the creator being the sole say on whether something is art. Furthermore, how many people judging as interesting compared to how many people judging it as aesthetically incoherent random paint splatters matter in this equation?

  19. Somebody get that chimp a knife!

    1. … or a typewriter.

  20. Art is a personal experience. A color can make me weep, while others just saw a blue sea.

    1. Just when I think I hate you to the fullest extent of human capacity, you go and say something like this, and prove I have entirely misunderstood my own capabilities.

      1. Your work in the medium of words has artistic merit. I think you should apply for a government grant to fully develop this thesis to realize your maximum potential.

      2. hate has much more passion than love,and the latter bores me

        1. …And Hank, unless you are the Cowboy Dog, I’ve never read anything you have written

  21. is would Ayn Rand deem it art?

    1. “Matters” to whom?

  22. Wow. They can beat moneys, almost 2-1. I’m so impressed.

  23. Art is defined as a thing of beauty and inspiration to the person paying the money for it. As long as that person reaches into their OWN pocket for the money, then let the definition be fluid and solely between the producer and consumer. If you want to reach into MY pocket for some of that money, then I get to help define the terms.

  24. Nice Stoppard quote.

  25. “…the great artists barely managed to squeak to victory”? I wouldn’t call 60-70% barely squeaking. If a presidential candidate won by that margin it would be a landslide, a true mandate from the public. If a medicine cured cancer 60-70% of the time it would be a “miracle drug”.

    Also, just because a painting doesn’t look like some “thing” doesn’t mean it’s not art. There is more to life than “things”, even to a materialist like me.

    1. I wouldn’t call 60-70% barely squeaking.

      Funny, 60-70% was a failing grade when I went to school. How many other endeavors are there such that 30-40% of the people can’t distinguish between the work of an expert in the field and the work of a chimp?

      I’m pretty sure a restaurant ad something like “70% of our customers can distinguish our cooking from that of a toddler” wouldn’t work out very well.

      1. Fuck you.

        1. They still have those – Toddle Houses? You from the south?

      2. According to this article (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/08/060810-evolution.html) only a third of Americans believe in evolution, so by your reasoning evolution has received a failing grade.

        1. The neat thing about evolution is that, like gravity, it works whether you believe in it or not.

        2. That’s the dumbest fucking defense of your argument I can possibly imagine.

          The observation is simple: 30% of the artists’ contemporaries cannot distinguish their work from a child’s or a primate’s. This would not fly in any other vocation.

          1. I dunno. I’ve worked with some engineers that would make me question your hypothesis.

    2. You realize the first 50% just means that they are equally as talented as chimps, right? If artists had no advantage over chimps the split would come out to be 50/50. Your miracle cancer drug is going from a 0% chance to a 60% chance, not from a 50% chance to a 60% chance.

    3. “If a presidential candidate won by that margin it would be a landslide, a true mandate from the public.”

      Um, not if he was running against a chimp.

  26. But will the monkey be able to buy a nice summer house on Fire Island?

  27. We had an art exposition at the airport a ways back. One piece was a garbage bag tipped over with garbage spilling out. The trash was all tied together with fishing line and hung from the ceiling. They had to hang it from the ceiling otherwise people would have complained all day about the tipped over trash bag in the terminal.

    1. I don’t know if that counts as “Art”, but it’s definitely Comedy Gold.

      1. You have to watch out for the cleaning crew as well

        “””””Cleaner bins rubbish bag artwork

        A bag of rubbish that was part of a Tate Britain work of art has been accidentally thrown away by a cleaner”””‘

        http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/ent…..604278.stm

        1. Fucking art, how does it work?

          1. Say what you like about the tenets of Insane Clown Posse; at least it’s an ethos.

        2. There is something deeply earnest and deeply funny about that.

  28. Any discussion of modern art should differentiate pre-World War II art and post. Most artists of the former had a strong background in fundamentals (such as Picasso), whereas the same isn’t so true, unfortunately, for the latter period.

  29. What do you guys think of James Joyce. I trudged through Ulysses in its entirety because I thought I had to, now I know that I’ll never get that time back. It’s gone, never to return.

    I curse you James Joyce.

    1. I tried and failed.

      Don Quixote is difficult to read but incredibly entertaining. Joyce is just difficult.

      “Joyce once said that he had ‘put in so many enigmas and puzzles that it will keep the professors busy for centuries arguing over what I meant’, which would earn the novel ‘immortality’.”

      Joyce knew how to please his audience, give them something to bullshit about.

    2. There is always certain art and artists which I am glad exist, but really have little time or motivation to actually get into them. I think Joyce falls into that category. Though I did find “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” to be quite readable and enjoyable.

      1. Ditto. And I have no problem with the big fuck-you to the professoriate that is Ulysses… it just means I won’t read it.

        But PotAaaYM is great.

    3. Haven’t read it, but much to my surprise I actually enjoyed Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow.”

      1. read portrait of the artist or dubliners to start.

        if you like that, read ulysses, but i hope you know a fair amount about irish republicanism and catholicism. it’s a very cinematic book in the sense of being like a camera that follows various characters throughout their day, but the allusions are, to say the least, dense.

        1. You guys need to make the leap over to Flann O’Brien. The Third Policeman for starters. It buries just about anything Joyce ever did.

          1. it’s kinda a given that someone into irish modernism is going to read both, no?

            i do agree that the third policeman is really good.

  30. When asked to name my favorite artist, I always say, “R Mutt.”

  31. I thought Ulysses was sporadically awesome.

    1. You know what would make it better? Vampires.

      1. Angsty, pallid vampires with gobs of self-loathing

  32. At least a third were fooled by chimps and elephants.

    Art shmart.

  33. http://www.zatista.com/blog/2011/04/man-or-monkey/

    I actually like the chimp one the best…

    1. I gotta agree.

  34. “But just because smart people can think of smart things to say about a work of art……”

    Smart people ? or over-educated dumb asses that consider themselves smart ?

    1. ^^THIS^^

      And I’m not sure that those with art history degrees are even all that educated, much less smart.

  35. To the question, “Is it art ?” I apply a simple rule. If I can do it, it ain’t art.

  36. But that has no bearing on the authenticity of the wine experience for the aficionado.

    *Stabs Sugarfree doll in eye with mechanical pencil*

    1. It’s a funny argument for me to have. I really don’t care for wine all that much. I’d rather have a beer or a glass of bourbon.

      1. This word “or”… It confuses me.

        1. Almost just spit some of said bourbon all over the keyboard.

  37. I want to see a study like this done not with pros versus kids/animals (although the fact that a solid third of the art students couldn’t tell the difference is pretty damning), but rather with notable pros versus adult amateurs. I bet that the amateur stuff would be mistaken for professional half the time.

    1. The study participants do not appear to be art students, though it’s not clear in Hinkle’s article. This previously linked article (http://www.zatista.com/blog/2011/04/man-or-monkey/) calls them “non-aficionados” so, as I commented earlier, 60-70% is a good result, not damning at all and, despite Hinkle’s math-challenged assertion, a ringing endorsement.

      1. http://www.angelinahawleydolan…..i_2011.pdf

        The study compared art students to nonart students.

        1. Thanks for the link, D.D.

          Hinkle either did not read it or chose to ignore it, but the conclusion of the study is encouraging:

          “People untrained in visual art see more than they realize
          when looking at abstract expressionist paintings. People may
          say that a child could have made a work by a recognized
          abstract expressionist, but when forced to choose between a
          work by a child and one by a master such as Rothko, they are
          drawn to the Rothko even when the work is falsely attributed
          to a child or nonhuman. People see the mind behind the art.”

          1. A cursory reading of the paper raises a couple of questions.

            First, the “authentic” modern art was selected only if it had appeared in well known art history textbooks, textbooks likely to have been read by an art student. This is a serious confounding factor since the students may have merely recognized some or all of the images.

            Second, each comparison seems to have been between “real artist” art and “child or animal” art. The raw differences are said to be significant but I would be more impressed by the findings if they had extended the comparisons to presentations where both images were by artists or both images were by children or animals. Telling me that untrained individuals do only slightly better than 50% correct at answering a binary question (no matter how significant the difference – even Bonneferroni-corrected) is unsatisfying. By providing the results of the artist vs artist and the kid vs kid comparison we would get some idea of how robust that significant difference really is.

            As it is, we have a small study that the authors admit is inconsistent with prior research, that hasn’t accounted for at least one serious confounding factor, and that presents marginally significant (in the non-statistical sense) results. So I’m not sure what conclusions can be drawn.

            1. Good points. Personally, I wanted to see the results broken down by painter, to see if certain especially discernable painters were lifting the average ability of subjects to discern professional work (or the reverse).

              1. Yeah, it’s an interesting study and I am, perhaps, being unfair for criticizing it for not being broader than it is. There are several ways to deepen the investigation and I look forward to future work by the authors.

      2. …as I commented earlier, 60-70% is a good result, not damning at all…

        As I implied earlier, if only 60-70% of people could tell an auto mechanic’s work from that of a chimp or toddler, he’d be out on his ass. Hell, imagine trying to find a job as a programmer if 30-40% of the people evaluating your work couldn’t tell if you wrote the program or an elephant did.

        The stats are damning as hell to anyone who wants better than a one in three chance that the person who cuts his hair does so in a way that can be distinguished from having had a chimp do it.

      3. 60-70% is a good result, not damning at all and, despite Hinkle’s math-challenged assertion, a ringing endorsement.

        What? Name one vocation where people can determine with only 60-70% accuracy whether the job was done by a millionaire professional or a chimpanzee.

        1. Stock picking, which is more like 50-50, at best.

          1. And any reasonable person would tell you that the people who pay for such services are dupes. It’s why we have index funds.

            I don’t see how this is a favorable argument to make for the value of random art, that it depends on the gullibility of its consumers.

  38. The problem I’ve always had with modern art is that it feels like someone is playing a prank. Here’s a Pollack painting, or an installation that has to be roped off so people know it’s art and not just furniture or garbage, or how about a bunch of tubes welded together with no discernible order, or fucking Ulysses. Without any sort of context it’s all just a bunch of random shit. Next to it is some douche with a goatee and a barrett, working himself into a lather about how it represents post-industrial societal isolation…or some equally meaningless bullshit.

    Here’s the deal, if it actually means something to the douche, even if all it means is that he gets to show off his art major education to people he doesn’t know in order to feel superior to them, then the art is worth something to that guy. But it doesn’t have to be worth anything at all to anyone else. Modern art feels like a prank when you think you’re supposed to appreciate it just a much as doucheboy, but the thing is, you don’t have to. And so long as your tax money didn’t pay for it, you don’t need to care about it in the least.

    I happen to like Rothko, but I also like pretty pictures of barns.

    1. “but I also like pretty pictures of barns”

      You must love Thomas Kinkade

    2. Pollack had a visual rhythm to his art. IIRC, his estate did some mathematical modelling of a number of his known works and certified an unsigned work based on its mathematical conformity to his other works.

    3. Next to it is some douche with a goatee and a barrett,

      It’s beret, if you’re refering to headgear.

    4. Next to it is some douche with a goatee and a barrett

      Why is a military sniper guarding art?

  39. Pshaw – the REAL issue here is how many insanely talented modern artists there are in the animal kingdom!

    We need Federal subsidies so our human artists can compete with these unfairly talented chordates!

  40. how about a bunch of tubes welded together

    Hey!

  41. Next to it is some douche with a goatee and a barrett

    If I were judging his art, I’d give it an “A”.

  42. “All conceptual art is just pointing at things.” – Al Held

  43. I once watched the BBC “Civilization” series, each week it went through a century of European art. When it got to the 20th century, the presenter did not even bother with the standard modern art paintings, he chose to showcase famous buildings instead. I fully endorsed his choice, the modern art is crap.

    I seriously see more beauty in certain computer games and Manga comics than the scribbled lines of chaos that so called artists draw.

  44. This movement began almost 80 years ago. The art under scrutiny here is generally Abstract Expressionism which by its nature has always garnished deserved’ and undeserved critique. The intent is the expression emotion in non- representational forms. So while the article does correctly point out that one squiggly line is similar to another, it misses the point of the movement. The communication abstraction of emotional forms is a “deliberate act” in the hands of an artist not in the monkey’s palm, child’s hand, or elephant’s trunk. The critique arises when the viewer is challenged to discern the two, not the validity of the movement as a whole.

    That said, isn’t this very old news? Its as if car and driver suddenly posted a review of the Model A as if it were relevant. Wowzers, suicide doors and an amazing 100 horse power. Bonus: Rumble seat for the kids and OMG, optional turn signals! Lifetimes have been lived since this issue was pertinent.

    Now, if the authors of the study were showing pictures of Ron English, Mark Ryden, Allison Summers and Brandi Milne and critics couldn’t tell the difference between a Low Brow master and an elephant’s kaleidoscope sneeze then that would be a story!

  45. For another twist on such stuff, check out (if you don’t know it) Harold Cohen’s AARON program. E.g., is this “art”?

    1. Yes, it is.

  46. I bring up religion – insert your favorite irrational religion. We can use Scientology as a relatively safe example (hopefully there are no fatwah issusing Scientology).
    So, bunches of people getting together to believe in ??????
    Or the adherents of political parties.
    Seems to me humans believe in a lot of nonsense.

  47. Modern art is still fucking garbage.

  48. “Jubal, why isn’t there stuff like this around where a person can see it?”
    “Because the world has gone nutty and contemporary art always paints the spirit of its times. Rodin died about the time the world started flipping its lid. His successors noted the amazing things he had done with light and shadow and mass and composition and they copied that part. What they failed to see was that the master told stories that laid bare the human heart. They became contemptuous of painting or sculpture that told a stories ? they dubbed such work ‘literary.’ They went all out for abstractions.
    Jubal shrugged. “Abstract design is all right ? for wall paper or linoleum. But art is the process of evoking pity and terror. What modern artists do is pseudo-intellectual masturbation. Creative art is intercourse, in which the artist renders emotional his audience. These laddies who won’t deign to do that ? or can’t ? lost the public.”

  49. Interesting acrticle for sure. Despite not reading most of the above comments, I’ll add my own definition of art: If anyone can do it, it ain’t fukkin’ art.

    “Take that, you philistines!”

    1. How about this as a standard? No matter what human activity you’re talking about(painting, playing the piano, auto mechanics, accounting, stenography, engineering etc.), if animals can do it and any number of humans with fully functioning brains even hesitate to prefer the work of the human as superior, the vocation should be left to the animals and no longer be considered a human activity from then on. Henceforth Post-modern art shall now be considered “monkey business”.

  50. I took an art class in college once.

  51. The study is a bit interesting. This, on the other hand, column is inane. How does this Kultur Warrior keep getting reprints here?

    (Go ahead and drink. It was close enough.)

  52. “Genuinely Great Art Seems to Speak to Everyone”

    Uhhh… that is such a cop-out. Art is a function of human behavior filtered by culture. Throughout history, many a “graven image” has been destroyed despite its beauty because it “spoke” against some preaching or teaching.

  53. Ayn Rand said that art is “the concretazation of an abstract ideal”. How can you abstract an abstraction?

    1. An “abstract painting” is a concrete object in that it is made of paint, canvas, etc.

  54. This is really pretty simple. In order for one to see a work of art one has to be literate in the visual language. 99% of the human species are not visually literate. When they like a Monet they are responding to sentiment. They like stories. This is because we don’t teach this stuff in school. The avant garde is also not visually literate. They are reflecting their sentiments which amount to an avant garde pose (political/gender/social). They are telling stories. Stories bad. Painting good. Philistines of the World Unite! Both the bourgeois and the anti-bourgeois kind. You have nothing to lose but your chains of ignorance!

    1. Pure bovine scatology.

  55. I gave little attention to Modern Art till I came across an artist that used an enema bag and 5 separate tempera colors. With one act of creation he said everything there is to say about Modern Art.

  56. It is quite striking how so many libertarians are such populists when it comes to art and culture generally.

    You’d think that being followers of a way of thinking that 98% of humanity thinks is absurd would make them a bit more hesitant about writing off cultural artifacts that seem absurd to them.

    But there have been all kinds of articles written in this magazine in the years since Virginia Postrel left that are openly dismissive of not just of primitive looking stuff like Rothko, but of obviously intelligent writers like Joyce and obviously skilled composers like Schoenberg and Webern.

    Knee-jerk populism from believers in the most non-intuitive philosophy since Parmenides. Pretty damn disappointing, really.

    1. Are you kidding me? Libertarianism is completely intuitive and abstract expressionism is horse shit. The monetary value of modern art is ENTIRELY dependent on who created it and has nothing whatever to do with the quality of the work.

      1. “Are you kidding me?”

        No, I am not kidding you.

        “Libertarianism is completely intuitive and abstract expressionism is horse shit.”

        Well, that was a compelling argument.

        Libertarianism isn’t intuitive in the world we live in. People believe that FDR saved the world through government action. Lots of people believe this. Without even thinking about it. The notion that the president runs the economy is extraordinarily common.

        Please understand, I don’t agree with this point of view at all, but it is much more common than the much more complicated ideas of Mises and Hayek.

        Second, ‘Abstract Expressionism’ is a huge and misleading category that includes artists such as Klimt. The guy could paint anything. Look up the murals painted in the Burgtheater in Vienna.

        And finally, I honestly don’t give a shit what a work of art sells for and why. People spend thousands of dollars on the fucking baseball cards that come in packages of bubblegum. I’ve never seen a painting by any hated ‘modern’ artist that was more boring than a baseball card.

        1. Knee-jerk populism from believers in the most non-intuitive philosophy since Parmenides. Pretty damn disappointing, really.

          One alternative to populism is, of course, technocracy, experts telling people how they should behave. If you require a demonstration, try the uproarious applause delivered to a performance of 4’33” (state-televised, no less).

          I have nothing against Klimt, Joyce or Schoenberg. Really, I enjoy all of them. But bullshit like later Rothko and Pollock are why people question whether art is art (I’d prefer to just call it low-quality art). And even they are nothing compared to self-promoters like Hirst who don’t even create much of the work they sign. When it’s gotten to the point where even students of certain schools have difficulty discerning whether a work was created by a famous artist or a child, that school has gone off the deep end. It almost makes you wonder whether it’s all an elaborate joke to see exactly how meritless a work can be and still be sold to the public as multi-million dollar art.

  57. The everlasting “art” debate. Sigh. Generally speaking, people like art. They like having art around them. They like seeing art that shows signs of the heart, the intelligence and craft of the artist. They dislike pretentious bits of stuff that some gallery/curator identifies as “art”. Never forget…the curator is building a career and using other people’s work to do it and the gallery that scoops 50-60% of the sale price (and they all do) is in business using other people’s work to make money. They can hardly be considered objective critics. Fortunately, people tend to buy the art they like. And more than ever, thanks to the internet, directly from the artist. Thus rendering the “is it art” debate irrelevant.

    1. solid

  58. Wow…That Rothko fella..Kinda a one trick pony eh? horizontal lines and rectangles..interesting. I wonder who does the verticals and who does the diagonals…..Hey, you know what, if somebody is willing to pay 78.2 mil for one of those, then good on the “artist”. I have absolutely no issue if you can make a living off of your “art”. But, If you’re starving because no one wants to buy your work or you cant get a gallery to show it, well, I would kindly suggest a different line of work….

  59. Ever come across Ortega y Gasset’s ‘Dehuminazation of Art?’ Look it up.

  60. What would seem to be a more significant question now is: what can an artist today do, which is NOT Rothkoesque, for example, that can also be understood by the layman, which becomes timeless, but which is different from that which has come before, like Monet, Rembrandt, etc.? The same question, I think, is relevant to “modern music” or “avant-garde literature”. Or are we doomed to continue to replicate the styles of a century or more ago, already accepted as “classic” and never get beyond them? That would indeed be sad, to never have gotten beyond Piero della Francesca in our paintings, for example, as great an artist as he certainly was, when we had all this potential in us but were afraid to show it because a lot of people laughed at it. We might also remember that in any medium artists considered “classic” today, like Monet, like Stravinsky, like Joyce, just to mention a few, were considered to be hardly above the crudity of monkey or elephant art in their day.

  61. Maybe, if there is a decline in our society, it has to do with the lack of public funding for the arts and the lack of art and the teaching of art in our schools. Making and teaching art is about encouraging creativity, something that our “leaders” seem profoundly lacking in.

    Does having a lay person’s understanding of physics allow you to grasp the bulk of the major scientific papers currently being published on the topic? No. What happens in the upper reaches of the art world is about moving a particular study and profession forward, so it follows that lay people may not appreciate or understand it. Oh, I see. Doing something?doing anything?means that you should do it so that everyone can appreciate it. By that measure, I think intelligent design is the answer to how we all came to be here.

    Thank you modern art for helping us understand that right-side up is not always right-side up. Perhaps it’s time, Mr. Hinkle, for you to spend some time looking at a map of the world “upside down.” Oh, the powerful, primarily white countries don’t make sense at the bottom? Ok, you’re right, let’s just go back to the time of Renoir, when it was clear what was up and what was down.

    1. You’re joking right?

      Right?

  62. I’m already disliking this A. Barton Hinkle charachet. Where the fuck did you guys dig him up?

    Yeah, there’s a lot of stupid crappy modern art. But guess what? There are a lot of artists who know that, and can tell the difference between retarded crappy bullshit, and actual innovation and skill.

    Last week I was at the Mesa Arts Center. In the Contemporary Art Museum was a piece that involved a dirty shirt hanging on a hook. CRAP ART.

    Then I went downtown to a party where someone had built a 20ft high ship out of shopping carts and scrap wood. Now THAT was art.

    I couldn’t precisely define what made the latter a great piece of art, but it had something to do with the punk style, and the sheer grandiosity of it. The dirty shirt on a hook took no effort, and little thought. Some bullshit throwaway statement. The shopping cart ship, that took effort and daring, and a fair amount of panache. And it wasn’t done to make a statement, but just for the holy hell of it.

    Throwing all modern art in the same basket just shows that you have no fucking taste. That you can’t tell the difference between what is crap and what isn’t.

    1. I didn’t know you were in AZ Hazel, we should get together and lez out or something.

  63. Art is drunk people making smart-ass comments at reason.com.

  64. The best modern art is the stuff by Ai Weiwei – the Chinese artist that just got arrested again for telling his totalitarian masters to fock-off in one too many creative ways.

    Freedom art rocks.

    Maybe that’s why the average modern art sucks. Most modern “artists” are completely spoiled brats living off the fat of the land in systems that actually work.

    They know they can’t really be against “the man” when “the man” is paying them big bucks for crap and letting them live as they wish – so they make up stuff about how awful the repression is.

    They are phonies.

  65. BTW – When art is stripped down to nothing but metaphor, it is like wanting to hit a home run without anyone knowing how to swing a bat or throw a ball.

    1. Your analogy is a perfect example of your argument! Metaphorically speaking, of course.

  66. I lived with my cousin and her husband in Manhattan for several months back in the 70’s. Her husband was well known illustrator, but aspired to be a real artist and had several shows. I was there when he created several of his masterpieces which consisted of large canvases over which stuck a strip of masking tape in no particular fashion – folds which broke the clean line were desirable apparently – and than air brushed the entire canvass with brown paint, after which he removed the tape and then, viola, you had your masterpiece. His earlier pieces consisted of just the brown paint – a single color – until he was inspired to add the strip of tape. I was humbled to be in the presence of such genius at the moment of inspiration. God truly spoke through this man.

    When “art” consists merely of commentary on the nature of art, then it’s not really art at all, is it? It’s commentary. I like to think of my miserable life as an extended piece of performance art. I am living this failed, unfulfilling existence, with its trials and tribulations as a commentary on futility of trying.

  67. It’s interesting how people are willing to skew statistics. If the results “seem” wrong to you, 67% is “just squeaking by.” If the results seem right, 52% can be a “mandate.”

  68. Sometimes I like to hang all my Renoirs upside down, to experience what it’s like to not own any art.

    All the blue squiggles in the world can be and probably are art, it’s just that some cost more than others.

    And anyways, what’s with the crypto-definitionalism? I thought Reason would be a safe haven for libertarian semantics. Guess it turns out aggregate stats and majorities beat out context and individual freedom after all.

    Or as the internet might say: complete #fail

  69. Nice, didn’t notice the “does not publish email” is NOT on the submission form until after submitting. Nothing like posting my email to an open page so that every spambot from here to the Ukraine can send me ads.

  70. The study by the two psychologists is bogus and poorly designed. The people studied merely reacted to the names, the fame, of the artists. The proof is in this wording:

    “Regardless of how the paintings were labeled, the study participants preferred the works by the famous artists 60 percent to 70 percent of the time.”

    They were judging strictly by the name of the artist, not by the quality of the work.

  71. Not that anyone else will be nuts enough to read to the bottom of these comments, but I just had to say that I had a personal flash of insight some years ago.

    While staring at some random trash masquerading as art, I realized that it was much more appealing to look at if I simply considered modern art to be still life comedy.

  72. the difference between modern art and Classic Art… talent.

  73. If only the clueless authors of this egregious pandering to the visually illiterate were aware that “abstract impressionism” as an art movement does not exist. If one is going to exploit fine art for their own ends, they should at the very least, recognize the art movement that they are ridiculing is called “abstract expressionism”, and alas, the two are not interchangeable. This is an inexcusably egregious error. To the methodological extent expected of any nominally valid critical discourse, anything after the second paragraph [where the mythical term “abstract impressionism” is employed] is embarrassingly corrupt. Faux news anyone?

  74. What’s the difference between a Rothko and a child’s finger-painting? Rothko spent 40 years arriving at the style of painting that he is most known for, finding all previous styles inadequate for what he wanted to communicate. Picasso went through a similar evolution over his career. Just because you can paint a realistic apple or nude woman doesn’t mean that your art is inherently superior to, or more valuable than, that of a master painter who honed his technique to the point where he could say more with a few brushstrokes than most could with an entire ceiling.

  75. The Smug attitude of this study 60 minutes & the. Author of this article are indicative of classic fear of the unknown and its aggressive response

  76. This movie has some nike sb skunk dunks for sale of the same flaws I saw in another attempt at a faithful adaptation of a work of fantastic literature long thought unfilmable, Zach Snyder’s 2009 version of Watchmen…That is, it kobe 7 for sale struck me as a series of filmed recreations of scenes from the famous novel

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