Thursday, December 10, 2015

Art as Life, part X

Art is a funny thing (see about that which I discuss "art as life" here). Hard for someone (a pleb, admittedly) like me to truly appreciate the entire enterprise, outside of that which impresses me personally.  Now, I love museums, though I find truth in the statement [1] that a visit to the museum is really just an ode to the trophies of the rich. And so it goes, but that doesn't mean I don't derive enjoyment from being in a museum. I dare say I gain much more from a visit to the museum than other activities; it has a way of expanding the mind and inspiring creation [2].

 I suppose I should say it's the art market that truly confuses me. That a beautiful painting like this can barely be considered worth much, but once appraised as Van Gogh's, it's immediately worth millions. When it comes to the worth of Jeff Koons' [3] work, I also "don't understand". This might be a testament to my middle class upbringing and the view that art has something "different" to it than other matters. Perhaps. It's a testament to human creativity and imagination, but when the market is involved, it also becomes a matter of marketing. 

I learned that when talking to a painter in the business. Then, like Koons, I imagine, understanding what and to whom you're selling is very important. It has probably always been thus. Or perhaps it has always been a matter of smokes and mirrors. Nothing every appearing as it truly is or was. Then in such a world, million dollar paintings make perfect sense. 

What am I talking about? I was recently told that a print from Mr. Brainwash was worth thousands. A print. I had asked if the person had seen Exit through the Gift Shop. In this documentary (or  mocumentary) a non-street artist barges into the scene and through what appears to be luck and timing sells enough to make millions. What does one say to that? Of course that he's attached to Banksy is what seals the deal, or is it?

It could very well be that the film is actually lying to the audience and that the work of Banksy is also the work of Mr. Brainwash. In that case it would make sense that the prints are worth so much. Or perhaps I'm missing the point. Perhaps people just like the prints. I have to admit that what I saw of Mr. Brainwash was pretty good. 

Recently, this point, that the artwork itself is something else, has been driven home after I watched F for Fake, a film I certainly recommend you see. In it Orsen Welles follows a painter who makes his living as a forger of paintings. We hear him boasting that most of the work on the walls of museums worldwide are his work, not the artists, or that if an artist saw his forgery of said artist's work, they would think it their own. What then to say of great art and art itself? What is art?

I'm not sure. I have the edge-node painting above to illustrate the point I'm making. That piece was recently the subject of quite a bit of controversy, whereby the original artist of edge nodes claimed that the above piece was a forgery. One that made the forger quite a bit of money. Some people are saying, however, that since the famous artist does not make all of her edge nodes (she hires out some of them now, and even has robotic hands working on more immense pieces) herself, this is merely a detail on the margins. 

What, then, is art? Is it all about a transmission from a very certain artist to you [4] through a medium? Is it about what one gets from standing in front of a piece of art? If the above edge node is not a fake, what does that say (let's say she forgot she had someone paint it) about the artist, the market she's selling to? I'm not sure. But I'll continue to visit museums and enjoying them. And I'll buy the little pieces I can afford. I'll let the rich duel it out about the prices of the "classics".

 [1] Banksy's statement, I believe, though correct me if I'm wrong. {1}

[2] Still street art and other such forms are only to be lauded. 

[3] Oh, reading about this great artist is very interesting. Here's one article by the New Yorker that can attest to his controversial work. And another that might not be the kindest. Interesting matters, nonetheless.

[4] You here standing for yourself or humanity.

{1} And, my, is this ever the rabbit hole to go down. Even if I apply it to literature and the fact that all the classics are not that "classic". In other words many have been picked for reasons other than what we view as some perfect filter of time. Or at least that's what I think, or thought at some point. Then, with this no base view, we are allowed to view even the worst genre book as just as worthy as a a classic Shakespearean play. Is that true? Eagleton certainly doesn't shy away from stating this. But even I shy away from totally believing this. The truth of the matter, as it concerns me, is that I would rather mock a lot of the lists of contemporary lit out there, while maintaining a level of condescending lines between that which is "true" and that which isn't (genre, and even lit fic). I do believe that line exists, but why I do I don't always know.
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