If you’ve gone to MoMa or the Tate Modern, hell, if you’ve picked up a recent copy of Art Digest or gotten by clicking about art in Wikipedia you’ve seen some modern art. Chances are you’ve seen it and, even if you didn’t say it you thought, damn that’s terrible. Oh, so and so spent 2 million on it? guess I’ll look again and try and rationalize. Or, maybe you swallowed it whole and just beleive that the capacity to generate a “cost” or end up in a museum or find a space in a gallery is what dictates the worth of an artwork.
So, I just ready Julian Spalding’s Con Art and in a effort to hear a cojent argument against that position I read Susie Hodge’s Why Your Five-Year-Old Could Not Have Done That. I was rather disapointed in both. Spalding just seems to accept that his position is correct and doesn’t need any sort of a defense. Hodge on the other hand give you her position in the title, just as Spalding does, and then proceeds to defend her stance in a way that totally disregards it. A more apt title for her work would have been, “Why The Art World Wont Defend Anything by Your Five-Year-Old.”
Spalding’s argument is something along the lines of, and I’ll paraphrase here, “What the hell is wrong with your morons? None of this is any good!”. Hodge’s is “We can bring all kinds of context to the analysis of this Unmade Bed or Uncarved Block so it’s deffinately worth a bunch of recognition and museum space.” I think their both wrong. I think they’re both looking at the wrong thing. I think this because terrible movies get made all the time and no one has any problem speaking up and saying they’re terrible.
Take Gigli. This is a movie that ends up on all kinds of worst movie ever lists. It had stars who people liked, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, and a budget of $75.6 million dollars. It made $7.3 million. If you invested $11.00 in making it, you got a dollar back on that investment and lost ten. The public at large and professional critics have no trouble at all panning the film. Why desparage Gigli but not the most expensive photo ever sold, a useless, photoshopped travesty called Rhein II?
Well, to sell Rhein II for $4.3 million one only had to briefly convince a few dozen high net worth idiots in an auction house that it was any good. In order to make a profit on Gigli you’d have to convince the public at large. Look at it this way, the fact Gigli got made is proof you can convice a few wealthy people that shit (even if it isn’t canned) is art that’s valuable. That it made no money to speak of is proof you can’t convince the world.
Oddly enough, everyone in the art world probably knows this. Everyone. It’d be hillarious, if it wasn’t so sad.