Is Pop Culture Killing modern Art ?
Philosopher David Novitz has argued that disagreement about the definition of art are rarely the heart of the problem. Rather, “the passionate concerns and interests that humans vest in their social life” are “so much a part of all classificatory disputes about art” (Novitz, 1996). According to Novitz, classificatory disputes are more often disputes about societal values and where society is trying to go than they are about theory proper. For example, when the Daily Mail criticized Hirst’s and Emin’s work by arguing “For 1,000 years art has been one of our great civilizing forces. Today, pickled sheep and soiled beds threaten to make barbarians of us all” they are not advancing a definition or theory about art, but questioning the value of Hirst’s and Emin’s work. In 1998, Arthur Danto, suggested a thought experiment showing that “the status of an artifact as work of art results from the ideas a culture applies to it, rather than its inherent physical or perceptible qualities. Cultural interpretation (an art theory of some kind) is therefore constitutive of an object’s arthood.”
Damien Hirst’s 66ft sculpture of a naked pregnant woman will remain in the seaside town of Ilfracombe in Devon for 20 years. The statue of the woman – named Verity – holding aloft a sword and standing on a base of legal books is meant to be a “modern allegory of truth and justice.”
A famous American culture critic has announced he is quitting the world of art as he claims it has become obsessed with celebrities and money.
Dave Hickey attacks the contemporary arts scene saying anyone who has ‘read a Batman comic’ can make a career for themselves in art.
The professor and author condemns the ‘tourist mentality’ of the industry, complaining it has led to well-known artists being overestimated.
The 71-year-old arts and culture critic said it has become ‘calcified, self-reverential and a hostage to rich collectors who have no respect for what they are doing’.
‘Art editors and critics – people like me – have become a courtier class,’ he told The Observer.
‘All we do is wander around the palace and advise very rich people. It’s not worth my time.’
‘If I go to London, everyone wants to talk about Damien Hirst. I’m just not interested in him. Never have been.’
Mr Hickey said the emergence of arts consultants has led to collectors buying what they have been told is great art, instead of forming their own opinion. excerpt by Sara Malm for the Daily Mail
Is the emperor naked or not ? We selected some of the comments regarding Mr. Hickey statements
He is so right. I sit on a museum board and it’s distressing how many talented artists, young and old, can’t get representation or make a living wage because galleries are obsessed with either the old and proven or the new and shocking. Art is all about marketing now. And collectors are generally looking for two things: “trophy” pieces by big names and the chance to make an obscene profit selling them at Christies in five years time.
- Sphinx, East Coast, United States, 29/10/2012 13:11
Tom Stoppard got it right when he said: ‘Imagination without skill gives us modern art.’ I wish someone in Ilfracombe would either put a dress on Verity (or even better) steal her and melt her down for scrap.
- Bluebell, Durham, 29/10/2012 14:43
Alas Mr. Hickey, you are a voice in the wilderness. Turn your head through 360degrees and it will always point in the direction of money making money in the art world. The auction houses, the business men, the investments funds are purveyors, purchasers and drivers of value, first. The fact that they can express some knowlege of provence and history is no more than might be expected of any business’expert’ brought in to manage a business – his primary concern is to get the business to make money, by which he makes his money, and that means hype, exposure and promotion, whatever the product. If the message is strong, the commercial sheep will follow. A never-ending tale.
- ronbow, neath, 29/10/2012 12:01
Just an observation, but the only cogent point of this whole article is the hinting at the cyclical nature of art. This generation will breed an avant garde artists who will seek to break the mold and transform art in ways we won’t appreciate until its too late. – Rachel, York, 29/10/2012 11:07 Tosh !
- Alfie Noakes, Stories Of The north, 29/10/2012 11:53
It’s Emperor’s new clothes, only the pretentious rich fools invest in conceptual art. The likes of Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and their galleries are laughing behind their customers backs. Talent requires no explanation. When you see it, you’ll know it.
- Him, Over there, 29/10/2012 9:54
He is so right but it is not just art, it seems to apply to everything in society where the stupid and gullible are so easily manipulated and readily parted from their money, anything by Hirst or Emin I would not even wish to display in my garden shed, prentious rubbish fawned over by idiots.
- richiefannee, Woking, United Kingdom, 29/10/2012 8:59
How right he is. Tracey Emin’s unmade bed must have been one of the biggest jokes of the art world. There must be zillions of those around the world every morning. The funniest thing about is is that when a cleaning lady tidied it all up and made the bed Tracey Emin was able to ‘recreate’ her work or art in next to no time. That says it all really doesn’t it.
- Me and Himself, Somewhereland, 29/10/2012 8:56
I hate how when it popped into Hirst’s inflated head to preserve a shark in formaldehyde, he put an advert out and in no time some brainless cowboy had hunted a shark for him. When the preservation process didn’t work properly, another advert went out and hey-ho another shark was caught and butchered. I endorse every word David Hickey says. Loved the last comment about the art world now resembling the stifling, narrow-minded Paris salon of the 19th century. We need a new movement, led by David Hickey, to break away a la the impressionists and endorse art for its INTRINSIC qualities – with checks on whether any animal – whether a cow or a fly – has been killed in the process and whether children would have nightmares. Google “the institutional theory of art” which is debated in philosophy: when art becomes about money and status at the expense of vision and skill and expression.
- new reality, east anglia, 29/10/2012 8:44
I love Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin etc. I also love the classical paintings. It’s just moving with the times. I think the art is in the controversy and the concept. – missy , Essex, Uk, 29/10/2012 07:15 Couldn’t disagree more. Art is part skill and accomplishment, and part communication, using media to provide insight. Modern art is part shock value, and part celebrity guff. They attempt to prove that there can be insight without accomplishment, and as such they lack any credibility. Like when somebody has just demonstrated they are fantastically bad at something, and then try and convince you that the something has no purpose or value – or that doing something badly is somehow clever or ironic. It’s the emperor’s new clothes – and finally the little boy has said what most of us have been thinking for 20 years or more.
- Realist, At the end of tolerance, 29/10/2012 7:40
The nature of art is subjective, relates to your perspective and can be perplexing at times; need I say any more?
- josh, Kent UK, 29/10/2012 1:40
It’s not just the rich is it though. People keep buying prints on canvas from high street chains, Ikea and Argos. Paying ridiculous amounts for prints that have been produced tens of thousands of times. A piece of art is for generations to enjoy. It lasts more than a couple of years, it lasts longer than you are planning to live. It frustrates me to see that the general population almost never buys an original piece of art. £200 – £500 is not a big ask from an artist considering the countless hours spent producing the piece. Never mind the countless hours getting to that level. POP culture is killing the art world. Start using your brains people.
- pyrite, York, United Kingdom, 29/10/2012 1:15
Who can bear any longer to look at the gurning stupid visages of Hirst and Emin? They exploited the post punk ethos to trick their way into the art world and always look to me like grown up children astounded that they got to steal all the presents and keep them. That Emin votes conservative says all you need to know about the level of narcissism and selfishness we are dealing with here. These artists display the worst traits of Thatchers children; obscene opportunism, a rather gloating projected vanity and at the core of it all: a large helping of nothing that they managed to sell to a herd of fawning pseudo intellectual cattle.
- Paolo, london, 28/10/2012 23:12
Although I do agree contemporary art has become too celebrity obsessed, I rather like much of Hirst’s work personally. Most of it is very much about the fragility of life, a memento mori, as is the Ilfracombe statue. We may not like to be reminded of that, but it[‘s a legitimate role for an artist. For those who say contemporary artists are line managers, you have to realise that every stroke of the great frescoes of the past was usually NOT painted by one person. Prints produced by great painters are actually produced by a team of technicians. It takes an orchestra to play Mozart, a mass of people to produce “Christopher Wren’s” St Paul’s cathedral. Art is’t always one person making one painting.
- Hughie, Hong Kong, 28/10/2012 22:26
Look,there is so much looted money out there that has to be laundered,by buying so called modern art you can say you paid whatever price you like to make up.These so called works of art do not have to be valued by anyone,they just have to have a name attached,like hirst or emin.Like the kings new clothes you do not have to prove their value,or merit.
- charlie, herts, 28/10/2012 21:32
Dutton, Denis Tribal Art in Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, edited by Michael Kelly (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998).
Danto, Arthur. “Artifact and Art.” In Art/Artifact, edited by Susan Vogel. New York, 1988.