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The Arts Room General What's wrong in contemporary art?
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What's wrong in contemporary art?
"The great art," says Daniel Buren is one who asks questions. They can make the work so strange, so new to the deeper meaning of this term it will generate a scandal or indifference. For indifference surrounding sidereal sometimes absolutely beautiful work may be the only scandal aroused! But if a scandal is the purpose that we give to art, it is completely wrong." These words of the great French artist, author of the famous columns of the Palais Royal, say, with great relevance, the major problem of contemporary art: the deliberate intention to shock,  that  becomes the best criterion for judge the value of a work. Some artists of today owe their fame to this: a keen sense of marketing, media's stupidity and greed of rich, very rich collectors who have no artistic education.
Some artists and some works that make me angry:
Damien Hirst: He became famous for a series of artworks in which dead dissected animals ( shark,  sheep , cow...) are preserved in formaldehyde( The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living)
"A Thousand Years"is one of Hirst's most provocative works. Maggots hatch inside a white minimal box, turn into flies, then feed on a bloody, severed cow's head on the floor of a  glass vitrine. Above, hatched flies buzz around in the closed space. Many meet a violent end in an insect-o-cutor; others survive to continue the cycle.
Totally disgusting ... Where is Art in it ?
"For the Love of God" is a human skull recreated in platinum and adorned with more than 8000 diamonds !The most expensive work of the world ($100 million )...Where is Art in it ?
Xiao Yu's "Ruan" is a work particularly shocking, unbearable:this piece  was constructed with animals and human parts including the eyes of a rabbit, the body of a seagull, and the head of a human fetus immersed in formaldehyde.No comment...
Wim Delvoye's Cloaca, or "shit machine"which is a huge machine which reproduces the digestive process turning food into excrement .The idea of a mechanical reproduction of the human digestive system goes back to the Digesting Duck by 18th century engineer Jacques de Vaucanson and evoke Piero Manzoni 's Merda d'artista( In 1961, the artist Piero Manzoni had defecated in 90 cans on which was inscribed "Artist's shit"  and  which were sold at a price of 30 grams of gold !)... Where is Art in it ?
I could go on but I'd rather stop here...



David, I’m no appoligist, but I do know that it does no harm being open to the works in question; to treat them like art.  There is nothing that won’t have something to say after we engage with it.  Art or not, they are silent when you don’t try to hear them.

If we immediately object to the form, there is no latter chance at any possible content.

Indifference is our default position. Cynicsm is an aggressive form of indifference that is really passive inaction. Only effort gets the world speaking.  A defense of personal belief and standards is more rightly accomplished, and more accuratly aimed, when it emerges from authentic and pointed commitment to the work itself.

 
Of course freedom of expression is an inalienable right and everyone can claim to be an artist. I am absolutely against censorship. What irritates me is this idea that the value of a work of art is measured by its provocative potential. Matisse and Picasso, arguably the two greatest artists of our century, never sought to provoke, even if some of their works have caused a scandal. They created a new artistic language of extraordinary wealth.
The works of Damien Hirst refer to the theme of memento mori, vanity, a theme that has often been treated in the history of art, but he does not renew this theme, it impoverishes it (that's at least my opinion). It will be difficult to convince me that a cow skull devoured by flies and maggots can have any artistic value.
Hirst has made  black paintings with crushed flies. What is the message of these works? Once we realized that they symbolize the cycle of life and death, I think we have exhausted the meaning of it. Let us compare these works to the fascinating black paintings of Pierre Soulages much more complex and subtle!
My impression (perhaps wrong ...)is that some contemporary artists lack sincerity and are mostly businessmen and champions of marketing.
We must ask, at one time or another, the issue of a valid definition of art. On contemporary art, we're used to negative definitions: "everything is art, " "Art is what I claim to be such" (the readymades of Duchamp ...). I think Duchamp was a highly intelligent philosopher and an outstanding chess player and has voluntarily conducted art in a stalemate, but that's another story ...
Some words about Marcel Duchamp.
For me, Duchamp is not an artist in the true sense, but the most  genial troublemaker in the history of art. In 1917, New York, Duchamp is part of the "Society of Independent Artists" based on the model of the "Salon des Independants" in Paris and taking the same motto: "Neither  jury, nor reward". Any artist can expose freely in principle what he wants. Duchamp then formulates a formidable chess player strategy to test the members of this Society.
Duchamp sent under the pseudonym R. Mutt an urinal ("Fountain") purchased in a store, like sculpture for the exhibition. He moves his pawn on the chessboard. Either the members  obey their principles (no jury no reward) and may seem ridicules to the public and the press or they refuse this sculpture and ...
Finally, Fountain was refused and Duchamp resigned. He was satisfied, he had introduced the "worm in the fruit", taking the Art Institution in its own trap and  questioning in a radical way the definition of a work of art.
 Checkmate!
Now the picture of an urinal will be included in all books on contemporary art!
Duchamp will push his argument up to its extreme limits, imagining a  "reciprocal readymade": use a Rembrandt as an ironing board!
And he has a lot of more or less servile imitators, who have not understood the malice of his approach. Really he succeeded  his finest game of chess!

Postscript (January 28, 2011 at 5:34 PM):
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