November 17, 2007

"When I kissed it, I thought the artist would have understood."

Said Rindy Sam, who put a lipstick stain on an all-white Cy Twombly painting. Encouraging art vandals everywhere, the French judge let her off with a fine of 1,000 euros ($1,425) to the owner of the painting (who was an aggressive enough a litigator to demand the full $2.8 million value of the painting). The owner of the gallery got $713. And Twombly himself received 1 euro, which the judge called "symbolic."

So forget about deterrence. In the France that this judge believes in, if you're willing to fork over a couple thousand dollars, you can put your mark on a highly valuable work of art and get famous doing it. Of course, Sam is herself an artist, and now you know her name.

IN THE COMMENTS: Reacting to Drill SGT who said "put on your Artist hat and explain a market that values a blank canvas at $2.8 million?," Palladian writes:
I wondered how long it would be before we got some reactionary "it's a blank canvas!" comment. It's worth 2.8 million because that's what someone was willing to pay for it. That's how markets work. End of story.

As for this incident, Europeans, for some reason, love to vandalize artwork, and European judges love to dole out light, friendly, non-threatening judgments. Sometimes the vandal is a crazy person. Sometimes the vandal is a brainless twat like this one who does it for some political or "performance art" reason. This happens because the vulgar, nihilistic stew that bubbles at the bottom of the contemporary art world can soften the bones and render to jelly even the most stalwart and talented artists thrown into it. When you have the editor-in-chief of a well-known European art magazine writing things like this:
"In my opinion, the arrest of Brener [who spray painted a green dollar sign onto a Kasimir Malevich painting] is an offence to the artist’s freedom of expression and, as such, a repressive act. Brener is no hooligan, but a transgressive artist with a strong personality, just as much as Malevich was the same, in his own time."

...then it's not difficult to see why these acts of destruction continue to occur, and why an art world that has come to value fame above all other things makes destruction seem attractive to its weak-minded bottom feeders desperate to "transgress the boundaries".

The best part about this particular piece of vandalism is that it's not even original:
"[in 1977] Ruth van Herpen kisse[d] a white monochrome painting by artist Jo Baer in the Oxford Museum of Modern Art, smearing her lipstick across it. In her trial hearing, she explains, “[The work] looked so cold. I only kissed it to cheer it up.”

How lame are you when you can't even be original in your vandalism?

I think the willful destruction of artwork should be a capital offense, punishable by a public hanging. Call it performance art.

72 comments:

Bob said...

Rousseau influence, probably.

halojones-fan said...

She should have kissed one of Young's paintings that wasn't all-white. Nobody would ever have known the difference.

Wide Boy Agamemnon said...

Nothing like artist-on-artist action.

The Drill SGT said...

ok Ann,

put on your Artist hat and explain a market that values a blank canvas at $2.8 million?

other than: "there's a sucker born every minute?"

paul a'barge said...

What kind of moronic media run a story like this without a photograph of either the artwork or of the lice egg that defiled it?

Tim said...

"In the France that this judge believes in, if you're willing to fork over a couple thousand dollars, you can put your mark on a highly valuable work of art and get famous doing it."

Post-modernists tell us that "property" belongs to the people, so this judge's fine is a moral outrage. We all have the right to kiss that painting wearing whatever color lipstick we choose. Shame on him.

Paddy O. said...

The work of art in question now becomes more important as well. All white canvas? How derivative. So mid-20th century.

Ah, but an artists kiss upon a derivative work, suggesting passion, evoking fierce rage. That's new. The emotions swirl between artist and artist and society, taking the supposed purity of white and breaking it down. White is all colors combined. The kiss breaks apart those colors.

The artist feels the impotent rage that society has felt against $2.8 million dollar works, propped not by talent or creativity but by ego and competition between art buyers who wish only to impress. The artist becomes society. The painting returns to its inherent value.

It's a moment of beauty.

Palladian said...

I wondered how long it would be before we got some reactionary "it's a blank canvas!" comment. It's worth 2.8 million because that's what someone was willing to pay for it. That's how markets work. End of story.

As for this incident, Europeans, for some reason, love to vandalize artwork, and European judges love to dole out light, friendly, non-threatening judgments. Sometimes the vandal is a crazy person. Sometimes the vandal is a brainless twat like this one who does it for some political or "performance art" reason. This happens because the vulgar, nihilistic stew that bubbles at the bottom of the contemporary art world can soften the bones and render to jelly even the most stalwart and talented artists thrown into it. When you have the editor-in-chief of a well-known European art magazine writing things like this:

"In my opinion, the arrest of Brener [who spray painted a green dollar sign onto a Kasimir Malevich painting] is an offence to the artist’s freedom of expression and, as such, a repressive act. Brener is no hooligan, but a transgressive artist with a strong personality, just as much as Malevich was the same, in his own time."

...then it's not difficult to see why these acts of destruction continue to occur, and why an art world that has come to value fame above all other things makes destruction seem attractive to its weak-minded bottom feeders desperate to "transgress the boundaries".

The best part about this particular piece of vandalism is that it's not even original:

"[in 1977] Ruth van Herpen kisse[d] a white monochrome painting by artist Jo Baer in the Oxford Museum of Modern Art, smearing her lipstick across it. In her trial hearing, she explains, “[The work] looked so cold. I only kissed it to cheer it up.”

How lame are you when you can't even be original in your vandalism?

I think the willful destruction of artwork should be a capital offense, punishable by a public hanging. Call it performance art.

Peter Palladas said...

A crime passionel.

No wonder she only got a light fine from a French judge.

He has probably already bought her a flat and set her up as his little cinq a sept.

I've some blank canvases on the attic.

Anyone is welcome to fly over and kiss them for a million bucks.

No tongues.

rcocean said...

"It's worth 2.8 million because that's what someone was willing to pay for it. That's how markets work. End of story."

Is it really worth $2.8 million based on a private citizen purchase, or it because an art dealer SAYS its worth $2.8m? Or is it because a public institution *decided* to pay $2.8 million?

There's a lot of difference between the 3 situations. And only 1 is really the "market at work".

rdkraus said...

While I would be the first to harshly penalize a person whe vandalized a Monet or a Renoir, it's tough for me to figure which is more offensive here: calling a blank canvas art; or mutilating it. Coin flip.

Lotta what is labeled art is just an insult to the viewer. JMHO.

Palladian said...

I wonder how long before we start talking about Andres Serrano, the favorite photographer of bitching reactionaries and pretty much no one else.

Would that Monet and Renoir had been radical avant-gardists and left their canvasses blank sparing us from having to look at their ghastly, sentimental smears.

The Drill SGT said...

I wondered how long it would be before we got some reactionary "it's a blank canvas!" comment. It's worth 2.8 million because that's what someone was willing to pay for it. That's how markets work. End of story.

Actually no.

irrational markets based on the greater fool principle behave this way for a period, but rational markets correct themselves.

ultimately somebody will get left holding that empty canvas worth 10 dollars even if it rises to $10 million before it crashes.

Palladian said...

Do you know Cy Twombly or his reputation? Of course, reputations can change, but he's been working for nearly 60 years and is very well known to anyone interested in American art of the 20th century. This "blank canvas" (I haven't seen it, and I don't rely on the media to accurately describe anything, much less a painting) isn't just a stunt from a new fresh kid.

Liam said...

Well now! Art!

Let's all remember that Europe has always reacted to art more viscerally than seemingly the rest of the world combined. David comes to mind, as do the Futurists and Dadaism. Perhaps living around art as they do makes them somewhat more volatile when presented with something "objectionable".

I suspect our lack of concern to reacting to art itself (rather than it's content as with Serrano and his unresolved bedwetting issues) is related to predominantly English roots.

The English were notoriously (with a few exceptions) bad artists having little or no passion for art.

As for Palladin's distaste for the Monet and Renoir: think of them in context with Brian Eno - not really music or art, but lovely to spend some time with...

Peter Palladas said...

ultimately somebody will get left holding that empty canvas worth 10 dollars even if it rises to $10 million before it crashes.

I'm with Sgt on this. There's a big sub-prime art market out there about to get its rectum crunched.

Do tell me this pray? When I shell out $100m or so on a Van Gogh, step number one is to have someone check it is the echt thing and not a number knocked up by some knowing forger.

But how do you tell the authentic blank canvas from a fake? I'm just not going to buy until I hear on this.

Paddy O. said...

Do you know Cy Twombly or his reputation?

Of course he's not a new fresh kid. The painting is valued at $2.8 million because people who like to show off their art collections want to show off artists who other art collectors know.

Doesn't make the work any less derivative. Twombly has fallen to the bottom of Kandinsky's triangle and needed a kiss of life.

Andy said...

OK all you artists out there: is Twombly's work really a blank canvas?

What is a "blank canvas"? Is it really just a piece of canvas, unprimed, framed and hung? Or is there something on it- primer, gesso, white paint, anything?

If so, can it really be said to be "blank"? Or is Twombly's canvas no more "blank" than Cage's 4'33" is "silent"?

Palladian said...

Good points, Andy. Here's an image of photographs of the panel before and after. The white panel is one third of a work entitled "Phaedrus" which is apparently a tryptich, though I can't find images of the other two panels; the twat-in-question only "kissed" one of the three panels though from the looks of the photograph it's hardly a "kiss", but a deliberate and massive defacement that would be almost impossible to effectively remove, given the oily nature of lipstick, the tenacity of the red pigments in it and the whiteness of the surface of the work.

So what's the message I take from this? Is it that women are incapable of making important contributions in their own right and can only achieve notoriety by literally latching their lips onto a famous old male artist's work? That women are a "stain" on the history of art? If we're supposed to treat this vandalism as "performance art" or social criticism, then I declare it a failure on a conceptual and a feminist basis. And, as I said above, merely derivative. Grade: F.

george grady said...

According to the CBC.ca article:

[Owner Yvon Lambert] claimed it cost more than $45,000 to restore the work because the lipstick could not be easily removed.

What's the point of cleaning it? Just make another white canvas. Who could tell the difference?

rcocean said...

I actually liked the vandalize painting better. Why is the blank canvas worth 2.8 million? Is it a "painted word" situation?

Jeff with one 'f' said...

"Europeans, for some reason, love to vandalize artwork"

A very European action. They'be been busily vandalizing their own cultures since at least 1914. (Althought some might say the impluse goes back to either the French Revolution!)

Palladian said...

"I actually liked the vandalize[d] painting better."

Well I'd like your face better if it was slashed with a razor (hypothetically, of couse). Does that make it acceptable? If someone slashed your face with a razor would we sit around talking about how your face was ugly in the first place and not worth [insert dollar amount] or would we be concentrating on the violent act against another person and their property?

I don't care to engage in a "my parrot could do that" argument regarding the merits and deficiencies of Twombly's work. I would think that people would be all over this as a violation of property or vandalism or sign of the degeneracy of Europeans, but instead, we're going to argue about the "audaciousness" of a white canvas, without even knowing what is on the other two canvases that form the rest of the painting.

george grady said...

I don't care to engage in a "my parrot could do that" argument regarding the merits and deficiencies of Twombly's work.

Then why are you? It's clear that the painting has all the artistic worth of a blank sheet of paper. That doesn't make the vandalism okay. But neither does the vandalism give the painting any merit. The vandalism certainly should have been punished more severely, but this artistic emperor still has no clothes.

losergrrl said...

Queries for "Palladian:"

Why did you think vandalising a piece of art somehow could be equated with slashing rcocean's face?

Do you think the Twombly canvas is a sentient being, capable of suffering?

Do you think rcocean is a sentient being, capable of suffering?

Is there a difference between a person and a physical thing?

Or do you think rcocean is just the electrons on your screen and has no ontological status?

Why should I think that you're nothing more than the electrons on my screen generated by a particularly nasty shell script?

Whom should I hold responsible for writing this notably dreadful piece of malware?

Henry said...

Palladian, thanks for the fighting the good fight for Twombley.

George Grady, Drill Sgt., etc., I don't know the painting in question, but many of Twombley's works have layers of glazed or scumbled paint. Even something that reproduces as all white may, in life, have surface qualities and subtle shades that can't just be "repainted".

Let me offer you an alternative. Say I go to see Rembrandt's Night Watch at the Rijksmuseum. I then proceed to rub one of the really dark parts of it with Rindy Sam's lipstick. It's a big painting. There's lots of dark in it. What's so hard about painting over some dark?

Besides, the thing has already been varnished and unvarnished a few times, trimmed to fit into Amsterdam Town Hall, and vandalized twice. Its value is artificially inflated by an art market that cares more about rarity than quality. What's the big deal about another stain?

Revenant said...

It's worth 2.8 million because that's what someone was willing to pay for it. That's how markets work. End of story.

No, not "end of story". What he was asking for was an explanation of HOW a market could possibly value it at $2.8 million -- i.e., what the explanation is for that. Why not $2 million? Why not $3 million? Hell, why not $3?

I can give you a pretty good explanation for why my house is worth what it is worth and other houses around San Diego are worth more or less than that. But I can't think of any explanation for a blank white rectangle being worth that much more than so many other paintings. So add me to the list of curious people -- why the hell's it worth that much? Is there a rational reason, or is the art market just irrational in its pricing?

Henry said...

is the art market just irrational in its pricing?

You mean, unlike the California housing market?

It's actually exactly the same as the housing market. High demand. Low supply.

Obviously, the demand is not for the painting per se -- it is for the painting by the specific artist.

But there is nothing unusual about this either. Anything rare is valuable because of its provenance. No one will pay millions for a fake Rembrandt, no matter how well it is painted, just as no one will pay millions for my really good fake of Babe Ruth's signature.

Palladian said...

"I can give you a pretty good explanation for why my house is worth what it is worth and other houses around San Diego are worth more or less than that. But I can't think of any explanation for a blank white rectangle being worth that much more than so many other paintings."

Really? Why is a piece of paper with the numeral 100 and a bad engraving of Andrew Jackson printed on it worth more than other pieces of paper? Because our society, government and markets decided that that was how much it was worth. Most of the things we value, at least from a utilitarian standpoint are inherently worthless.

Why does a grown man who plays stickball for a living deserve to be paid 275 million dollars?

Who knows, who really cares. I like looking at Twombly's work and I think that he made a contribution to 20th century American art that provided another current in the 1960s besides "Pop" art and Conceptualism through which the very American school of painting called abstract expressionism could move forward in an interesting way.

Why is this Picasso painting worth more (though not by much) than his "Dora Maar au Chat"? Many reasons, none of them particularly more irrational than any other market force.

Joe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe said...

I posted a snarky comment about art like this being a piece of crap, but then read a blurb somewhere that the canvas wasn't just painted white, it was layered in a rather intriguing way. A quick search showed up no detailed picture, so I'll reserve judgment. I still wonder whether Twombly is being serious or it's an inside joke to show just how stupid art collectors are.

jeff said...

Anyone want to buy a tulip bulb? I'll make you a good price.

Steven said...

This "blank canvas" (I haven't seen it, and I don't rely on the media to accurately describe anything, much less a painting) isn't just a stunt from a new fresh kid.

Right, it's a stunt from an old, cynical bastard from the intellectually bankrupt tradition of 'abstract art'.

Malicious damage was done to property, so yes, a crime was committed. But no art was harmed by Rindy Sam, and Cy Twombly getting a payment of €1 was a symbolic injustice.

The Drill SGT said...

here is a picure of the picture as it were

http://news.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=1617642007

rhhardin said...

I think the willful destruction of artwork should be a capital offense, punishable by a public hanging. Call it performance art.

The noose school. They're everywhere today.

Palladian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Palladian said...

"Right, it's a stunt from an old, cynical bastard from the intellectually bankrupt tradition of 'abstract art'."

Why don't you and the reactionaries (with your impeccable credentials) mount an Entartete Kunst exhibition to show the world just how "intellectually bankrupt" the tradition of 'abstract art' is?

Henry said...

I mentioned this already, but I'll restate it in clearer terms -- a "white" painting isn't necessarily white. The surface quality of a painting -- it's texture & translucence, the way the light refracts through layers of paint -- almost never reproduces in a photograph.

Unless you see this kind of painting live, you really have no idea what it is like to view it.

JohnAnnArbor said...

I think the willful destruction of artwork should be a capital offense, punishable by a public hanging.

I feel the same way about people who mutilate rare books or manuscripts in libraries or archives.

Palladian said...

"I feel the same way about people who mutilate rare books or manuscripts in libraries or archives."

Ugh, so do I. I used to do a lot of research at the Beinecke Library when I was in graduate school right around the time that a repulsive University of Wisconsin student (ahem) and summer employee of the library was stealing and cutting up irreplaceable documents in order to sell the signatures on eBay and elsewhere.

He should have swung from the elms (if there were any left) on Temple Street for that.

rcocean said...

"Well I'd like your face better if it was slashed with a razor (hypothetically, of couse). Does that make it acceptable? If someone slashed your face with a razor would we sit around talking about how your face was ugly in the first place and not worth [insert dollar amount] or would we be concentrating on the violent act against another person and their property?"

I wasn't supporting vandalizing art. You like the painting, I -based on what I've seen - don't. So what? If people want to pay $2.8 million for it, God bless 'em.

But don't demand that I share their high opinion. Or impute that I approve of vandalism.

Trooper York said...

I feel the same way about the callous defacing and destruction of baseball cards. I once got in a fist fight with Louie Tringale when we were six years old when he put a Mickey Mantle rookie card in the spokes of his bike cause it made a cool noise. That card is now worth more than his car.

Steven said...

"The assertion that art may be good art and at the same time incomprehensible to a great number of people is extremely unjust, and its consequences are ruinous to art itself; but at the same time it is so common that it is impossible to make sufficiently clear its whole absurdity.

"Nothing is more common than to hear it said of reputed works of art that they are very good but very difficult to understand. We are quite used to such assertions, and yet to say that a work of art is good yet incomprehensible to the majority of men, is the same as saying of some kind of food that it is very good but most people can't eat it. The majority of men may not like rotten cheese or putrefying grouse, dishes esteemed by people with perverted tastes; but bread and fruit are only good when they are such as please the majority of men. And it is the same with art. Perverted art may not please the majority of men, but good art pleases every one.

"It is said that the very best works of art are such that they cannot be understood by the masses, but are accessible only to the elect who are prepared to understand these great works. But if the majority of men do not understand, the knowledge necessary to enable them to understand should be taught and explained to them. But it turns out there is no such knowledge, that the works cannot be explained, and that those who say the majority do not understand good works of art, still do not explain these works, but only tell us to that in order to understand them one must read, and see, and hear, these same works over and over again. But this is not to explain, it is only to habituate! And people may habituate themselves to anything, even to the very worst things. As people may habituate themselves to bad food, to spirits, to tobacco, and opium, just in the same way they may habituate themselves to bad art—and that is exactly what is being done."

— Leo N. Tolstoy, the writer whose work on nonviolent resistance inspired Gandhi, but whose views on art clearly indicate he was just a Nazi.

Palladian said...

"I wasn't supporting vandalizing art. You like the painting, I -based on what I've seen - don't."

So is what you've seen a picture of a woman holding two small photographs of one part of the painting? If you have a link to an image of the whole thing I'd love to see it, as I haven't been able to find any. I never said that I like the painting; I couldn't say whether I like it or not, since I've never seen it and am not willing to base my judgment on a picture of a picture of a part. What I'm objecting to is the general dismissal of basically the entirety of modernism by people based on a toss-off description of a maliciously vandalized painting in what amounts to a "News of the Odd" story in a few papers.

Honestly, talking about art here is like defending George Bush in a firedoglake comments thread.

Revenant said...

"is the art market just irrational in its pricing?"

You mean, unlike the California housing market?

Yes, unlike the California housing market. It has bursts of irrationality now and then (like all markets), but generally speaking it is a rational market.

It's actually exactly the same as the housing market. High demand. Low supply.

Ok, no.

There is a "low supply" of land in California, yes. There is a high demand for it, for obvious reasons.

But there isn't a low supply of blank white rectangles in the world, nor is there any obvious reason why there would be ANY demand for them except as something to draw on. So we're back at square one -- what's the rational reason for the high price?

Revenant said...

Why is a piece of paper with the numeral 100 and a bad engraving of Andrew Jackson printed on it worth more than other pieces of paper?

Because the United States government says so, and they've got a lot of guns.

Palladian said...

The best works of art cannot be understood by the masses, just as a Tolstoy novel cannot be understood by someone who only reads romance novels. The so-called "masses" (a disgusting word for a group of people, by the way) might appreciate a work of art but that doesn't indicate understanding. No one, from the stupidest reactionary blog commenter to a Renaissance art historian can ever "understand" a work of art, as if artworks are puzzles to be solved or jokes with a punchline. The project of modernism was, in part, to remove all of the arcana from art; to present art as an object rather than a window or a mystery, that you could react to right here and right now. I'm not saying that this goal of modernism was successful, but you have to be a hell of a lot more educated to "understand" a painting like Bronzino's allegory of Venus and Cupid than you do to "understand" a Robert Ryman painting.

People make the mistake of thinking that art is for them, or to be enjoyed by them. This is why I'm against using public funds to support individual artists or artworks in any way; then the "masses" can justly expect to be entertained and you better damn well put out and be understood.

Palladian said...

"...but generally speaking it is a rational market."

Tell us that again when the next wildfires spread through the tracts of newly-built McMansions. Rational to build in a wildfire zone, or in a city that's battered by every hurricane that comes down the pike? I don't think so.

Gahrie said...

One can both condemn the act of vandalism in defacing a work of art; and reject the atrocity labeled "modern art" that the painting represents at the same time.

At least I can.

rcocean said...

Palladian:

Why are you so defensive? I've seen a lot of abstract art and a a lot of un-modern art. And while I've enjoyed some abstract and "modern" art including Picasso, I enjoy representational and impressionistic art such as Rembrandt, Turner, Sargent, Monet, Whistler,etc, much more.

So I don't need to see an enlarged photograph. To your way of thinking I'm an uneducated rube who just doesn't understand. So what? Enjoy your "complex" art and let me and the masses enjoy ours.

Henry said...

Steven - Is that Count Leo N. Tolstoy quote from the period when he repudiated his own novels? Tolstoy was a great writer, but not a terribly coherent philosopher. Consider that his medium, writing, was inaccessible to the majority of his countrymen. Even if one takes literacy as a given, Tolstoy does little but glorify the normative -- if the multitude likes it, tis good; otherwise not. So much for opera, jazz, and ... Tolstoy.

Revenant, to extend the real estate analogy, perhaps to silliness, consider that housing values derive as much for neighborhood as square footage.

The value of art likewise derives from context. It does matter who paints a painting. If an artist has a mature life-long body of work that is enjoyed by many people (Steven might want to check the annual attendance figures for the MOMA), collected by individuals and museums, and inspirational to other artists, even a minor work is going to have the value of that association.

You also have to get over the monochromatic issue. A Greek marble is monochromatic too, but that's not all is is. Neither is the painting we are discussing.

Chip Ahoy said...

Wonderful post, Ann.

George said...

Ol' Cy did his thing from time to time in a dark room, using his non-dominant hand. Far out.

I'm talking about painting, not anything else.

Steven said...

A sunset is not art, a flower is not art, the Milky Way is not art, the Aurora Borealis is not art. They can be pretty, they can be appreciated. But they are not art, because they lack meaning. Without meaning, an arrangement of molecules may be pleasant or unpleasant to look at, but there is no art to be seen in it.

So, yes, "[t]he project of modernism was, in part, to remove all of the arcana from art; to present art as an object rather than a window or a mystery". That is precisely why modern 'art' is not art.

The incomprehensible is meaningless. That is not to say art must be comprehended; it merely must be comprehensible. The majority of people cannot read a haiku in the original Japanese. But most people could learn Japanese, and there is a meaning to be understood which can be explained to those who cannot read Japanese.

So this lipstick thing was an act of vandalism, yes. Exactly as keying a car is vandalism, or spray-painting an overpass with "John loves Mary". And it should be treated precisely as such. If a citizen-owned Renault is burned in the street, does France award even a single Euro in compensation to the manufacturer? Then no more should Twombly have received his symbolic compensation. No art was harmed in the commission of this act of vandalism.

Henry said...

Steven -- one fact you might want to add to your analysis: Twombley is not a modernist.

When Palladian defines modern art the way he does, he is referencing a specific movement. Robert Motherwell, Clyfford Still, David Smith: these guys were modernists. Twombley: no.

Nichevo said...

"I think the willful destruction of artwork should be a capital offense, punishable by a public hanging. Call it performance art."

1) I think smashing both her knees would suffice. But who am I to judge?

2) If the little whore wanted to pay the $2.8m and them play kissy-face with it, that would be her right. This was not. If you don't like the painting, then don't buy it.

3) I am obliged to note that Andrew Jackson is on the $20 not the $100 bill. Benjamin Franklin adorns the $100.

mtrobertsattorney said...

A sunset, an alpine field of flowers and the milky way provide a unique kind of experience-a experience described as "aesthetic". A sunset, a flower and the milky way lack "meaning" in the sense that the aesthetic experience derived from them cannot really be captured by language. It is the same with good visual art created by human beings.

This is why Shopenhauer's advice to artists who sought to create art with meaning was to forget it and write an essay instead.

(The relationship of the aesthetic experience to beauty (or Beauty) is a question for another day.)

reader_iam said...

I hereby withdraw all objections to use of the word "bitch" in all applications to women, no matter in what station they are or aspiring to, on the grounds that it is clearly passe. (Sorry, don't know how to do diacriticals in blogger.)

***

Also, "vandalism" is a great name for the acts perpetrated by the people who commit them.

Cross out "people" and replace with "criminals."

(If anyone would like me to explain why and how I think that's true from both a conservative and liberal--or, for that matter, pro- or anti-artist,and etc.--POV, I can oblige.)

***

That latter said, the real reason I'm commenting on this thread has to do with how I started this comment:

I hereby withdraw all objections to use of the word "bitch" in all applications to women, no matter in what station they are or aspiring to, on the grounds that it is clearly passe.

I guess if the woman who asked that question of McCain had only used "twat" instead of "bitch" all would be OK.

Stupid me, for missing that.

Steven said...

Henry, you'll notice I've been ignoring you. Nothing personal; in fact, that's precisely it. I don't expect you to agree with my definition of art, or for me to be able to convince you to agree. It's no moral defect that you disagree about what is art; you're wrong, but entitled to your opinion. (De gustibus non est disputandum, but mine are correect.)

I've been addressing Palladian precisely because he's been personalizing things and moralizing. Tolstoy is a rather incoherent philosopher; however, as an illustration of how intellectually bankrupt Palladian's recourse to Nazi analogizing is, he's convenient.

(Reactionary? Now, that was a compliment, at least in the context of art. When things have gone wrong, the correct action is to set them right. It's the principle behind, for example, computer backups. Going strictly forward often merely drags you into further trouble.)

Anyway, the precise classification of Twombly isn't important, which is why I segued directly to him without making any distinction from the Modernists. A white canvas is devoid of meaning, and so it isn't art. It might be devoid because it was not meant to have an understandable meaning, or it might be meaningless because the artist chose deliberate extreme obscurantism, or because the artist was so inept at communicating his meaning is inscrutable. It doesn't matter; if it's meaningless, it isn't art.

Which, of course, merely my judgment. Turns out I'm a pretty judgmental reactionary.

Revenant said...

extend the real estate analogy, perhaps to silliness, consider that housing values derive as much for neighborhood as square footage. The value of art likewise derives from context.

Neighborhoods confer objective advantages -- proximity to freeways, good schools, scenery, etc. Owning white rectangle "painted" by a guy who one did something worthwhile conveys no advantages, unless "being thought a moron by most of the world" counts as an advantage.

You also have to get over the monochromatic issue. A Greek marble is monochromatic too, but that's not all is is. Neither is the painting we are discussing.

Dude -- I've seen the photos of the painting. There's no there there.

Sculptures are patterns of shape. Paintings are patterns of color. A monochromatic painting is the same as a sculpture consisting of a single shape -- an sphere, for example. And yeah, I know some "artists" try to pass off that sort of thing as art, too.

Revenant said...

Eesh. I just made the mistake of Googling around for some of Twombly's other "art".

This is ridiculous! I could shit a better painting than that. What the hell is wrong with the art world? Meaningless scribbles requiring no talent or sense of beauty? Who the heck pays actual money for these artistic abortions?

How much do you have to hate poor people before you blow a couple million bucks on a canvas full of a retarded two-year-old's scribblings instead of doing something to help other people?

Palladian said...

Revenant: "Dude -- I've seen the photos of the painting. There's no there there."

Dude! Please provide us a link to images of the painting. And I don't mean a photo of a woman holding a photo of one panel of a three-panel painting. I mean an image of the entire work. You're talking out of your ass.

"This is ridiculous! I could shit a better painting than that. What the hell is wrong with the art world? Meaningless scribbles requiring no talent or sense of beauty? Who the heck pays actual money for these artistic abortions?"

LOL. MY PARROT COULD PAINT BETTER THAN THAT! I love how this topic is turning people into LuckyOldSons of the art world. Call it Twombly Derangement Syndrome.

Buy yourself a Thomas Kinkade print and shut the hell up.

Steven: "It doesn't matter; if it's meaningless, it isn't art.

Which, of course, merely my judgment. Turns out I'm a pretty judgmental reactionary."


Yes! You are! I don't mind the judgmental part. Being judgmental is good. Your judgment is just lame. Thanks, though, for this hilarious little philosophical nugget:

IF IT'S MEANINGLESS IT'S NOT ART.

IF IT BENDS, IT'S FUNNY, IF IT BREAKS, IT ISN'T.

IF THE GLOVE DON'T FIT, YOU MUST ACQUIT.

"3) I am obliged to note that Andrew Jackson is on the $20 not the $100 bill. Benjamin Franklin adorns the $100."

D'oh! I originally referred to the "bad engraving of Benjamin Franklin" but then I looked at it again and realized that the engraving of Franklin on the 100 dollar note is actually not that bad, so I switched it to Andrew Jackson but forgot to change the denomination accordingly.

Simon Kenton said...

Looks to me like one of many indications of how far we've gotten from effective parenting. The only way to raise little boys who have a perfectly normal, healthy interest in wrecking, defacing, or blowing things up, is to make them fix it afterward. We all watched when Jim Bridge, who had lost it on the corner while driving like an asshole, was enslaved by the magistrate, assigned to the county maintenance crew, and had to reconstruct the railing he had destroyed. Took him two weeks in the summer sun. When we drove (slowly) past, we'd sing verses from "Chain Gang." Fines don't work. Hiring surrogates doesn't work. Being made to clean it up afterward works. Jim went on to other problems, but his days of driving like an asshole were done.

Palladian, I think she should be enslaved until she fixes it to the satisfaction of the owner and the artist. It could take months, could take years; in a very early version of the pricing snits in these comments, Reynolds stated the price of his painting included the years of apprenticeship and skill-building. After she fixes it to their satisfaction it won't matter much if you string her up. (I sure wouldn't care either way if you do; by conduct and speech she's done nothing to de-exotericize herself from the 'mass' of 6 billion of us, and convince me of the infinite sanctity of human life). Live or die, when she's fixed it right, she'll be done with art vandalism.

Henry said...

Revenant -- 2 points. One fact, one analogy.

Fact -- Until you see the painting live, you don't know what you're talking about. It reproduces as white because photographs do a terrible job of reproducing subtle shades, surface textures, translucence, etc. Looking at a 300 x 400 pixel JPEG and yawping about it being a "white canvas" is kind of like looking at a photograph of a diamond and complaining about it looking like a chip of glass.

Now, an analogy. Anyone who likes contemporary art runs into the "my kid (or my butt) can do it" knock. Would anyone say this about music? Sheesh, that Mozart, my kid can play his tunes. What a loser. "Hard to do" (like "really big") is an aesthetic quality, but it's a minor one. Most of us regard Mozart higher than Paganini. Homer higher than James Joyce.

The "easy to do" argument also falls flat among artists because almost all great art is doable. Among the multitude of aspiring amateurs and incompetent professional posers, there are many artists and illustrators who really do have the technical chops to reproduce a Van Gogh or a Rembrandt. But the fact that almost any great painting is reproducible, doesn't change the value of the original.

Someone actually had to come up with that original. Someone like Twombly painted thousands of paintings before he painted the one you dismiss; over that time he learned the kind of visual effects he could get from drawing through opaque glazes; he experimented with different ways to make the lively, graffiti-like scrawls that characterize his work; he introduced symbols and words to see how he could communicate different ideas (many of his later works reference classical mythology).

You think it's overpriced? Sure, probably. I think Robert Redford should never receive another dime to act or direct. But I don't get all moralistic about it.

* * *

Steven -- Well, thanks for noticing. Your segue between Modernism and Twombly is cause for you to lose the argument on the facts. The painting isn't blank.

Now I could defend high modernism from your 'modern art is meaningless and something meaningless isn't art' tautology, (meaningless according to whom, kemo sabe?), but I'd rather defend Twombly who I like much better than the modernists.

ShadyCharacter said...

Palladian and Henry, you are both very passionate on this thread. Do you think that it is possible in a forum such as this to convince anybody that is not predisposed to view a blank canvas (or a various subtle shades of white on white canvas) as "art" that it is in fact "art" or that it has any artistic merit at all? It's probably no more likely than that Drill Sgt or Revenant will convince you that most contemporary art is almost beyond parody (and has about as much intrinsic value as a Tulip bulb in Amsterdam in 1637 - and if people were ever to wake up to this fact, would have the actual value of a Tulip bulb in Amsterdam in 1638 - i.e. zilch)

I'm a little thrown to see one of my all time favorite commenters (commentators?) resort to analogies about slicing faces with a razor blade. What were you thinking? That's so out of character given the tenor and quality of your typical posts. Just my two cents, and not even worth that, I know...

Palladian said...

"What were you thinking? That's so out of character given the tenor and quality of your typical posts."

Obviously you've never read my comments closely. I'm passionate about this because I'm passionately against stupidity and laziness. I resort to violent hyperbole when I'm confronted with seemingly intelligent people resorting to cheap shopworn dismissal of something they haven't even expended the energy to have pretended to look at. I'm rather ambivalent about Twombly, but I'm terrifyingly partisan when it comes to defending art from the presumptuous attacks of the ignorant whether they be wearing lipstick or not.

Call it performance art and laugh it off.

Trooper York said...

It is very interesting to find what people are passionate about when they comment on a thread. Although my tastes in art are basically confined to Peter Paul Rubens and Frederic Remington, I respect Palladian’s opinion and I for one am willing to accept the artistic merit of this piece. Palladian obviously knows a lot about this subject and we should listen carefully to what he has to say. It would the same if Lucky held forth on how to be the perfect asshole. If you listen and learn you would never have a hemorrhoid. In the meantime I will be posting about art under my sock puppet email address Phil A. Stine.

Palladian said...

Trooper, strangely enough I happen to have very conservative taste in art; I basically don't like anything made after 1740, with a few exceptions. As I said, I'm ambivalent about Twombly, but what people were saying here goes well beyond reasonable dismissal of Twombly's work to an attack on modernism itself which is basically dismissing the entirety of art after photography, the vile French impressionists included.

Incidently, if you like impressionism, there's going to be a big JWM Turner show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in a few months. I recommend it if you want to see the alpha and omega of observational impressionism in its best, least sentimental form and also to see the work of an artist who was dismissed by the reactionaries of his day for weirdly the same reasons that our reactionaries dismiss Twombly.

Palladian said...

That should read "J.M.W. Turner"...

Trooper York said...

One of my favorite places to go is the Brooklyn Museum on first Saturdays where they have a rocking dance party and some pretty cool exhibits. The collection of Egyptian art is one of the finest collections in the world and really something to see. The power and majesty and exotic appeal of some of the artifacts is something you can really appreciate. Sadly, impressionism has lost all appeal for me since the death of Frank Gorshin.

Henry said...

Shady, I guess the answer is no. I certainly don't think it's worth much time to convince someone to like a particular artist. But I would hope that intelligent people could consider looking at contemporary art without the knee-jerk resentments and one-liner aesthetics.

I do happen to like Cy Twombly's work quite a lot. It's ironic that he is the jumping off point for this discussion since he's not at all a modernist, and is an artist very unlikely to produce a monochromatic canvas as a stunt or conceptual conceit.

And even among the modernists and post modernists (and pop artists and earth artists and conceptual artists) there's a lot of great stuff to look at, if a person just bothers to actually look.

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