More than in any other field, misperceptions about contemporary art keep audiences from effectively engaging it. Even within the art world itself, I see people buying into myths that cloud the viewing experience. In an effort to give the gallery-goer a few more tools to make sense of what they see, this week’s column compiles many common and useless contemporary art misnomers.
This work generated so much discussion, it must be good!
Everybody talks about Lindsay Lohan, but this doesn’t lead people to conclude she is an excellent actor. The same rationale needs to be applied to art. Media starlets Damien Hirst, Banksy and Vanessa Beecroft generate media spectacle around their personality and art designed to elicit base response. Unfortunately, it works. None of them however, have made anything in recent memory worth the chatter their work produces.
Anything can be art!
Duchamp didn’t make every shovel art, just the one he labeled. In other words, while context and intentionality can earn a work the title of “art,” residual creative impulse does not.
Value is completely subjective.
No it’s not. There are methods of evaluating art, and just because viewers respond differently doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Unresolved aesthetic choices and lazy conceptual practice won’t receive a pass from me.
Anyone could do that.
A sentiment typically refuted with the argument, “But you didn’t.” A more common version of the myth circulating art circles, “It’s too easy” completes itself with “to take a compelling photograph,” or “to make a good collage.” In each case, the viewer’s actually complaining that it’s too hard to separate the good from the bad. There’s no easy answer to this dilemma, except to look at enough art to develop a mature eye.
Elitism rules the art world.
Actually, this one is true, but the unspoken fallacy here, is that it doesn’t also rule every other field. Class is far less permeable than we care to believe.
Pioneering artists are “ahead of their time.”
The idea that the art world understands something regular folk do not is patently false. Artists don’t have any special vision into the future; a few talented individuals will simply earn the unique burden of representing a strand of visual culture for the generation. I don’t believe in the concept of genius.
I don’t know enough about art to talk about it.
Anyone can discuss art well, few of us however look at it long enough to be able to do so. Trust your instincts, talk about what you see — don’t be afraid to be wrong. The beauty of an opinion is that you can change it as your response evolves.
Art professionals wear black.
Unless they wear pink.