Friday, May 10, 2019


According to Wikipedia anyway, the Skytree Tower in Tokyo is the tallest tower in the world.  But is it a work of art?  

We can ask the question as to whether it is attractive.  Is it noble?  Is it innovative?  Is it noteworthy?  Is it worth visiting?  It it awe inspiriring?  Is it an achievement of human innovation?  Does it ennoble the human person?  One might be tempted to answer yes to all of these questions and still there could ensue a lengthy debate as to whether it is a piece of art.

On the other hand, talk about Notre Dame Cathedral in France and no serious person would carry on a debate about whether it is also a piece of art or not.  Not even those who put a worn shoe under glass and declare it art would give us any serious push back.

The definition of the word “art” as grown so wide that almost any object on earth could be categorized under its label.  When it can mean just about anything, then it runs the risk of not meaning anything, a danger for so many of our once cherished words.  I think this is why so many of us “unwashed masses” become disappointed at “art” showings.  There is a nagging suspicion not that we are simply having our palettes stretched, but that we are being hoodwinked.  “Wait a minute,” the thought might come, “how can you glue two Rubrics Cubes to a mannequins foot, call it ART and charge me $25 to get in to see it?”

Once again, I have no problem with the pretty, the interesting, the innovative, the excellent achievement, the thought provoking being put on display and charging people to see it.  But we return to the question, “But is it art?”

Who gets to decide?  Well, you do.  Someone got to decide that an unmade bed is art, you get to decide that, “No, while it might be well done and interesting, it is not art.”  And do not worry that someone with a PhD who tells you that you are simply ignorant and do not understand, thank him or her for their time in enlightening you and move on.

What I caution is to have some open mind about stretching your personal taste in art.  Because I don’t like something (or experts like or do not like something) only time will make reveal its relevance to humanity.  Experts have been wildly wrong as have the unwashed masses (of which I am one.)  After fads have faded, after peer pressure has dissipated, after political correctness has turned a new corner, after the glare has worn off and we can see an object for what it is, then we will know if it is art.

And as for art needing to beautiful . . . there will be those (there are those) who vehemently disagree with me.  That’s Okay.  I think they are wrong.  That is not to say that some things are not worthy under a different category, it is simply that it is not art.  Beauty and art should be almost interchangeable (but not quite - there are differences - but that’s another post.)  If, for the average person, there is way too much explanation that needs to take place, then it is not beauty, it is a statement - and usually about the artist more than anything else.  (There is a danger here too in that it can be such a new way of seeing the world that we simply don’t “see” it yet - but then again - we return to time.)  Skill, detail, care, influence, meaning, attractiveness - all these things are not enough.  If the object is also not beautiful, then, as worthy or useful as it might be, it is not art.

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