What is art? No, it’s alright I’m not going to wade into this highly controversial and potentially explosive topic right now. But I am left to wonder – yet again as many of you will know, for this has been a bone of contention with me for many years – where the art market is heading if it can openly embrace with media coverage and high prices much of what is being touted as art today?
Congo the chimpanzee is selling his abstract compositions for more than $25,000 US at auction! (You can buy a good Riopelle for less). A bar of soap believed to have been made from fat pumped from Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi sold for over $22,000 at the recent Art Basel in Switzerland! Doodlings on the ceiling of the Vancouver Art Gallery are being hailed as the work of a latter day Michelangelo, and photographs of an artist dressed up in a clown’s outfit have sold for as much as $60,000 in a New York gallery I am told. Is this art? Is the photograph of a strategically placed toilet on a sun-drenched suburban deck really a work of art as some would have us believe, or are we being duped into the fact that, if we spend enough on marketing and promotion we will believe anything is art – and pay accordingly?
Where are the artists today? I know where the entertainers are. I know where the exhibitionists are. I know where the crafts people and primitives are. I know all about shock tactics, marketing, and media hype – but where are the artists? Where are the years of practice and study? The classical training, the hours, weeks, years spent on perfecting the hand, the ear, the foot?
I am not opposed to creative adventure, to artistic research and discovery, to abstraction, modernism or futurism. But shams disguised as art **** me off! If we are to believe that all these outrageous creations are, indeed, ‘art’ then, as the Dadaists implied, we all must consider ourselves artists. Photograph the way you lay your razor on the sink in the morning – someone wll buy it! Don’t move that shovel from the garden path, it’s art! Capture for all the world to see and remember the decapitated remains of some unrecognizable road-kill the next time you head off to the cottage. With the right marketing and promotion you might earn enough from a series of images to pay off your mortgage!
Whoa, there! Here I go again, and I said I wouldn’t rant and rave. Sorry. It’s just that I get a little steamed sometimes when I see good art overlooked in favour of – what? For want of a better word, let’s say ‘entertainment.’ It is amusing, even thought provoking – but is it art?
Well, is it? What do you think?