Archive for October, 2009

“If people don’t understand modern art, they shouldn’t knock it,” wrote one smug correspondent, after yet another selection of bizarre offerings prompted the usual raft of “What’s it all about?” letters to the press.

Well, if the purpose of those creations was shock value, then I dare say some of them will achieve that goal. If the objective was to create an enigma, then plenty of the exhibits will be a resounding success. If the whole point was to create something that, although neither use nor ornament, will still make the “artist” a pretty packet, well then, we should be able to check that box too.

If, on the other hand, the purpose was to create something of aesthetic value, that will contribute to the world of art as a whole, and which most people will actually enjoy admiring, then…epic fail!

What the people who have constructed a weird egg man or tipped paint all over the gallery floor have failed to grasp is that art is essentially a form of communication. If the public don’t understand it, do not like it, and cannot connect with it, the communication has failed.

The public automatically sense that art is supposed to have something there that will engage them, and produce a positive emotional response. The artist is responsible for his/her own creations. If the piece is so bizarre that it does not communicate anything to the majority of its audience, then it is not the public who have missed the point – it is the artist.

Thus I feel perfectly justified in criticising such pieces of modern art, if I wish to, for precisely that reason. Not because I am an art Philistine, but because this seems to me to be a situation very reminiscent of the tale of the Emperor’s New Clothes. The next time some pickled cow apologist says, “Oh, you just don’t understand it,” I shall reply, with aplomb, “Too right. And whose fault is that?”

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