Now, I'm not an artist, or in any way a qualified critic, so maybe it's no surprise that I have a distinct lack of appreciation for a lot of modern art. Some years ago, I was killing a bit of time by wandering through a local art museum, and was bemused by many of the exhibits. I particularly remember one: a loaf of bread which had about two dozen nails driven into it, and was then varnished. Um. Maybe it was just too sophisticated for my unrefined tastes, but the only thing which this "work of art" said to me was that someone wasted a perfectly good loaf of bread. I feel sure that Chesterton- a man of hearty appetite- would agree. He certainly had no liking for the "moderns" of his own time, describing one work as, "a piece of paper on which Mr. Picasso has had the misfortune to upset the ink and tried to dry it with his boots...."
Of course, one must make allowances for differing tastes, and certainly many people love Picasso's paintings- or say they do. And I'm willing to admit that some of these works require skill to create, even if I don't like them. But then there's "Voice of Fire".
"There have always been disputes about art; but they have been disputes among normal people about matters of degree. There were any number of people who disliked Benvenuto Cellini; there were any number of people who probably preferred the clumsy and pretentious statues of Bandinelli. But there was not a whole crowd of men standing gaping and goggling in front of a statue of Cellini, wondering what in the world it was meant for, and how anybody could have the impudence to suppose that such a thing was a sculpture at all."
Are all forms of art equally valid- even those which require little or no skill? Are there no objective or measurable standards or requirements? When I was in London, I visited the British Museum, and was in awe of many of the objects I saw... there was a special exhibition at the time of artworks on loan from Egypt- ancient works of great beauty and artistry, which were simply amazing. I skipped the Tate, which is London's museum of modern art, but recently visited its website. It currently has an exhibition running of an artist whose works include these three paintings:
All of this brings me- in a very roundabout way- to the video I mentioned earlier on judging the quality and artistic value of works of art, entitled "Why Is Modern Art So Bad?" The person speaking is a trained artist, so actually has an educated opinion on this matter-as opposed to my "I don't get it."- and I found myself agreeing with his arguments and conclusions. I'm sure there are plenty of art experts who could make make a case for the opposing view, but my brain turns off when anyone starts talking about things like "metaphysical dimensions", so I didn't bother looking any up. In any case, here's the video: