Nearly everywhere we go we find art in the form of paintings, sculptures, music, film, dance or a work of architecture. But is it art? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Who can say?
Motivated by the innumerable questions from art friends and customers who were bewildered by the often incomprehensible modern art, German artist Ulli Kampelmann decided to delve into the subject “What is Art?”
She came across many well known artists, art critics and philosophers of the arts who published their observations on the subject.
Let's begin with the word: ART. A word is a unit of significance. The conglomeration of these words comprise a language. Languages exist to share ideas and express emotions. Societies establish agreement on the meaning and usage of specific words for specific things. These agreements on words make it possible to have smooth conversations.
A large plant which has roots, a trunk, branches and leaves or needles we call a “TREE”. The subject dealing with quantities and the calculations of quantities we call “MATHEMATICS”. But what of this word “ART”?
There are many ideas (sometimes conflicting) about the word Art. Historically, there was no confusion about the meaning of the word. This turmoil and befuddlement is a fairly recent phenomenon.
Leonardo daVinci said, “Art is the queen of all sciences communicating knowledge to all the generations of the world.”
THE ROOTS OF ART
Let's step back into the past closer to the roots of artistic creation. The artist intended that his artwork is seen or heard and understood by the audience; he intended to convey a message.
South Africa - 25,000 BCE Mesopotamia - 2230 BCE Iraq - 2600 BCE
Game Pass (Cave painting) Victory Stele of Narum-Sin Ram in a Thicket
China - 300 CE France - 850 CE Japan - 1100 CE
Girl with GuQin On the Road to Emmaus Minister Kibi's Adventures in China
India - 1300 CE England - 1840 Russia - 1850
William Turner - Sun Setting Over a Lake Alexander Ivanov - Moses Before the God
France - 1905 Austria - 1908 Spain - 1931
Henri Matisse Gustav Klimt - The Kiss Salvadore Dali - The Persistence of Time
The Woman with a Hat
The artist had an IDEA. By using technical skills, he imbued the artwork with the idea such that it communicates the idea to the beholder and the beholder understands the idea. The idea can express or represent a thing, an action or a feeling.
THE DILUTION BEGINS
Until 1916, this was the case. Then came a group of “thinkers” from Europe and North America whose views ran counter to this idea. They loudly expounded their “anti art” called Dadaism in protest against the war (World War I) and against all capitalistic bourgeoisie. Thus the confusion in the field of art was born.
Marcel Duchamp Man Ray Jasper Johns
Fountain - 1917 The Enigma of Isadore Ducasse - 1920 False Start - 1959
(Urinal signed by the artist) (Sewing machine wrapped in felt)
(Sold for $65,750) (sold for $1,673,000) (sold for $80,000,000)
The mistake is that for these works, the word “Art” is applied. The famous German philosopher and poet Friedrich Schiller wrote, “Commonly one is told that the audience debases the artwork. To all times where the art got debased, it was debased by the artist.”
Johann Wolfgang Goethe wrote, “Mankind is the highest and actually the central subject of art.” He also said, “Art is essentially noble.”
The popular satirist and art historian Ephraim Kishon wrote in his book Picasso's Revenge “The biggest sin in modern art is that she is contemptuous of her audience. In this way not only the beauty was driven out of the art, but also the love to her. Guilty on this are the cultured enlightened who are too afraid to open their mouths. But sadly enough, the burden of guilt from this gigantic bluff of this worldwide terror from this modern establishment (cultured enlightened) was on the small shoulders of the broad public. They already love Beuys' Fat Chair”
Joseph Beuys Joseph Beuys Joseph Beuys
Fett Stule - 1964 Sled - 1969 Bed - 1949
(Chair with block of fat) (sold for $3,114,500) (sold for $1,000,000)
Ephraim Kishon says: “Beuys is only one of the many examples of these jokers. The case of Beuys is probably one of a kind in the art history. He became a world famous artist without producing one single artwork. Looks like that I'm the only art historian who doesn't understand him. On one side I admire him, he was a great humorist. The modern art is a bluff."
Mark Rothko Daniel Spoerri Jackson Pollock
Orange, Red, Yellow - 1961 Eat Art - 1964 No 28 - 1950
(Used tableware glued to table top and hung on wall) (employing his famous "drip method")
(sold for $86,882,500 ) (sold for $200,580) (sold for $20,500,000)
Jackson Pollock's No. 28 hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Their website states: “The dominant critic of the day, Clement Greenberg called (Pollock's) works 'polyphonic.' 'Knit together of a multiplicity of identical or similar elements,' he wrote, this art 'repeats itself without strong variation from one end of the canvas to the other, and dispenses, apparently, with beginning, middle, and ending.'”
Picasso said, “Modern art galleries are nothing more than a pile full of lies and the people who make a business out of it.”
Ephraim Kishon: “Picasso was not a clown. He made with his paintings sarcastic comments on a confused era. He was a fantastic archivist of human stupidity.”
Picasso himself said in his speech on 2 May 1952, “All pathways in art are wide open for charlatanism. The audience can't find any comfort or elevation from the arts. All of the cunning, the rich, the idle, and the strainers for effect searching for the new, the strange and the offensive. Since Cubism and even earlier I myself satisfied the critics with endless jokes which they increasingly admired the less they were able to understand. With this game I acquired fame. And 'fame' for an artist means: selling, fortune, wealth. But when I'm alone, I can't see myself as a great artist. I'm a joker who understood his time. I got a lot out of the stupidity, greediness and vanity of contemporary men and women.”
Picasso before Dadaism Picasso after Dadaism
Woman with Folded Arms - 1902 Dora Maar au Chat - 1941
(sold for $50,000,000)
Ephraim Kishon said, “The Art Mafia have mounted a decades long brainwashing campaign with the effect that intelligent people, who in other domains are completely rational, lose their self-confidence and say, 'Maybe it's really art but I can't really say. I haven't the expertise.' The proponents of the Modern are very clever pranksters. Indeed, many of them freely admit it when they get a bit drunk. The great sculptor Georg Baselitz once said, 'What am I s'pose to do? They pay me a fortune for these things.'”
Georg Baselitz - Horta de Ebro - 1988 Georg Baselitz - Elke - 1993
(sold for $288,000) (sold for $2,400,000)
Salvador Dali said in a interview for American Weekly “We are witnesses at the birth of a hybrid art which is half caricature and half decoration. This is extremely serious. In this way, a whole generation is threatened with a return to a dark art barbarism”.
Hermann Nitsch Hermann Nitsch
Schuettbild - 1963 (Performance art) - 1990
(Blood and acrylic on canvas) (symbolic crucifixion including slaughtered cow)
(sold for $54,050)
(Note: In 2005 Hermann Nitsch received the Golden Honor Medal of Vienna and the Austrian National Prize for his 'art'!!)
Prominent art critic Hilton Kramer forcefully argued against what he saw as the decline of the nation's cultural standards at the hands of a misguided elite. “Postmodernism is modernism with a sneer, a giggle; modernism without any animating faith in the nobility and pertinence of its cultural mandate.”
In 1981, as Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser received the Grand National Prize for fine art, he said, “Modern art is degenerated. What is doing the avant-garde fools with art? They help to destroy our existence with all their power. Their accomplices are the blind mafia of art gallery directors; journalists, critics, and negative philosophers. Modern art became a horror show. Art is a place for worship, enlightenment, freedom; a place where you get deep soul help where you find the right path again after you have lost it. Art must be valued and must expand the value and not destroy the value. Art must be aesthetic, true and good. But when an artist does this he gets misunderstood and slandered. The most absurd actions become idolized and worshiped. Art becomes ugly, empty, without aesthetic, without any good; only stupid, cold and hard. This horror show gets worshiped from a color blind, sad and myopic clique like the golden calf.
“Modern art freed herself so much that she evaporated.
“This negative, life negating rubbish fills up our art galleries, gets rusty, decrepit and dusty.
"This horror show of modern art is like the fairy tale The Emperor's New Clothes...
"The clothes of the emperor are marveled at though he doesn't wear any. This absurd ghost of contemporary art will continue to be marveled at until it gets annihilated as a tissue of lies.”
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