What is art and who determines it?
A question I’ve often racked my brain about.
When does a work become art? Is it skill or is a new idea enough? The American painter Jackson Pollock only had his artistic breakthroug when he happened to drip his brush onto the canvas instead of painting. Pollock initiated something new. But does that turn the work into art?
Andy Warhol was already famous, when he instructed his students to come to the studio in the morning with a full bladder and pee on the canvas, which was lying on the floor. Today, this piece hangs in the Brandhorst Museum in Munich.
When I pee on a canvas or drip paint on it, nobody thinks it’s art. So it’s probably not just the idea, but also the person, the artist, who turns a work into art.
Once the artist has achieved a certain fame, it seems as if almost every further work is automatically waved through as art.
The more unusual, bizarre, dramatic, mysterious the artist, the better. Artists often fall outside the scope of the ordinary and show the viewer with their story a world closed to him, a strange world.
The audience is longing for this and art needs audience and
the happiness of being discovered by the art scene. Because art is nothing if no one knows it.
And sometimes the art scene slides into absurdities, that I can no longer follow, even with the greatest effort. One example is the Italian conceptual artist Piero Manzoni.
In 1961 Manzoni filled 30 grams of his own shit in 90 cans. He sold all cans for 37 US dollars each. Today they are in various collections. Their value has increased many times. In 2008, one can was auctioned for 132,000 euros at Sothebys.
Manzoni came up with the idea for the can action through his father, a can manufacturer, who said to him “Your art is shit”. Not only does this say a lot about the disturbed relationship between father and son, it also shows how banal the idea of the can-shit was. Do we really need that? Is that art? Does Manzoni’s shit belong in a museum? Surely there are art connoisseurs who argue, that Manzoni’s idea was great and that he revolutionized the art world with this action.
Here the story of Hans-Christian Andersen “The Emperor’s New Clothes” comes to my mind.
The fairy tale is about an emperor who lets two cheaters weave new clothes for a lot of money. They tell him that the clothes are so fine and noble that only a true connoisseur could see them.
In fact, however, the emperor appears completely naked. But since he is insecure and doesn’t want to appear stupid, he doesn’t say that he can’t see the alleged new clothes. And so it happens, that he steps before his people completely naked. Even his people do not dare to tell the truth and praise the emperor’s beautiful new clothes. Only a little boy, who doesn’t care what the others think of him, speaks the truth and says that the emperor has no clothes at all, but is naked.
This story is about the uncritical acceptance of authorities, which goes so far that even the obvious truth is not spoken. For example, that shit in cans is not art, but simply shit.
A famous New York gallery owner said in an interview with the BBC on the subject of “What is art?
An object only becomes art when a person is found who is willing to pay a large sum of money for it. It is concluded from this that if someone spends so much money on a work, it must also be art.
This thought is even more potent when the work is hanging in a museum. People were taught that art hangs in museums. What hangs there has been approved and is practically no longer questioned. For many it is certainly similar to the fairy tale “The Emperor’s New Clothes”. They do not dare to say their honest opinion.
But who decides which work is allowed in the museum? The decision-makers are a small, elitist circle who call themselves experts and can apparently distinguish art from non-art. They have the true power to create artists and decide what is art.
But their decision criteria has a lot to do with fashion, zeitgeist, taste, chance, politics, vanity, power and influence. How else could it be, that countless artists were unsuccessful in their time and their works were worth nothing, but years later, often after their death, they were elevated to the status of art.
First no art, then art?! How does that work? Isn’t art always art? Even if it is unsuccessful or, as the gallery owner from the BBC documentary says, does it only become art through the evaluation of others?
I might come across quite cynically, but I just had to say this. 😉
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator