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The scam that is modern art ...

I tend to believe that most modern art is a scam. Usually an exploitation of geometrical works, modification of ordinary objects or pure unadulterated chaotic garbage. A scam perpetrated by a select group of artists, gallery owners and critics whose livelihoods and reputations hang on works that have no intrinsic meaning other than what is being sold to the public through creative license.

I think that I am most offended by most modern art because: one, I cannot view the piece and immediately understand the underlying symbolism without the aid of a title, artist’s description or a reviewer’s summary; and two, I could actually reproduce the same work – and sometimes do a much better job. I know what I like -- and most modern art is not what I would want on my walls.

Yes, I ADMIT  I am an artistic philistine. 

It’s somewhat like viewing clouds. Intellectually, I know that there is no inherent information in any given cloud structure which is created by the chaotic and random forces of nature. But, being (somewhat) human, my brain attempts to match patterns of my previous experiences or form interpolative calculations to derive some meaning for what I am observing. Thus I am able to see an elephant there and a tree over there. All of which exists solely within my mind.

Perhaps the goal of a piece is to make you feel good – at least on the basis of owning a “rare” piece of art which might turn out to be a great financial investment. Something you can loan to a museum or gallery in return for referential prestige and media attention. After all, it has been long said that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Although, I have little or no trouble distinguishing a beautiful girl from a dog. Or, in my own humble opinion, art priced by the greater fool theory; where one need only convince someone else to purchase a work at a greater price.

Perhaps what really offends me is the business aspect of the modern art world. Something I find somewhat nefarious as works are exchanged by affiliated parties to raise prices – similar to stock manipulation with Boesky, Milken and the boys.

Or the effete pseudo-intellectuals who are affected by the “emperor’s new clothes” syndrome; oohing and aahing over a piece lest they be considered ignorant, uncultured or uncouth.  All encouraged by art’s arbiters, the critics, who I am convinced are deeply affected by the amount of previous art they have viewed – and now attempt to match what they are seeing to what they have been told is “important art.” Producing a honest opinion based on nothing more than the interpretation of the cloud patterns in their mind. 

While I, in no way, pretend to be an art critic, let’s look at the work of the wunderkind, Damien Hirst, whose latest piece involves a diamond-studded platinum cast of a baby’s skull.

Media worthy …  A subject shocking to the ordinary citizen whose sensibilities may be offended by the use of an almost sacred subject, a child, which is exploited in an unusual way and the profligate cost of the undertaking. Definitely good for inspiring “buzz” in the media. Some parents who have recently lost their children might find the work not only insensitive, but offensive.

Unique even while being a derivative work …  While examples of the decoration of body parts, whether the person is alive or dead, can be found in history, it is the cost of the undertaking which makes the piece rare. So essentially the work is derivative -- not only historically, but of Hirst’s previous 2007  work  titled “For the Love of God” which was a full-size diamond encrusted platinum skull.

An expenditure of significant funds on a trivial pursuit …The work may also be shocking to the ordinary person because of the cost of the undertaking, which is estimated to be £4.2 million ($7,000,000 ) for the cast platinum skull embedded with 8,600 pink diamonds and its potential offering price. By comparison, Hirst’s 2007 work was created at an estimated cost of £50 million ($78,000,000 )  -– and said to be the most expensive example of modern art. 

Some liberals calculating in their minds the true benefits to mankind that could have been produced had the same amount of money been spent on the production of clean water, building sanitary facilities or spent on medicines and medical assistance for the indigent in third-world countries. It is somewhat of a paradox that liberals will put on their tuxedos, gowns and diamonds to attend a gallery showing of ridiculously expensive modern art while actively demanding that the ordinary taxpayers pick up the real tab for their social charities providing the bare basics to a wretched segment of humanity.

The language of modern art … Like any other public presentation, the framing of the work by its promoters is what gives even an ordinary piece a unique, and exploitable value. 

The title:

For Heaven's Sake.” 

What the artist said: 

"What's the maximum I could do as a celebration against death?" 

"When you look at a skull, you think it represents the end, but when you see the end so beautiful, it gives you hope.”

"Diamonds are about perfection and clarity and wealth and sex and death and immortality. They are a symbol of everything that's eternal, but then they have a dark side as well."

About the artist …

I am heartened to see the artist, Damien Hirst, defined not only as an artist, but as an entrepreneur. He certainly managed to find his niche and work it most profitably. Hirst is reputed to be among the richest living artists in the world with a fortune estimated at £215m ($334,000,000) by UK’s Sunday Times.

“He became famous for a series of artworks in which dead animals (including a shark, a sheep and a cow) are preserved—sometimes having been dissected—in formaldehyde. The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, a 14-foot (4.3 m) tiger shark immersed in formaldehyde in a vitrine became the iconic work of British art in the 1990s,and the symbol of Britart worldwide.He has also made ‘spin paintings,’ created on a spinning circular surface, and ‘spot paintings,’ which are rows of randomly-coloured circles created by his assistants.” <Source>

The Industrialization of art …

“Although Hirst participated physically in the making of early works, he has always needed assistants (Carl Freedman helped with the first vitrines), and now the volume of work produced necessitates a ‘factory’ setup, akin to Andy Warhol's or a Renaissance studio.”

“Rachel Howard painted Hirst's "best spot paintings".

“Hirst said that he only painted five spot paintings himself because, "I couldn't be fucking arsed doing it"; he described his efforts as "shite"—"They're shit compared to ... the best person who ever painted spots for me was Rachel. She's brilliant. Absolutely fucking brilliant. The best spot painting you can have by me is one painted by Rachel." <Source>

And not without controversy …

“In several instances since 1999, the sources for certain of Hirst's works have been challenged and contested as plagiarized, both in written articles by journalists and artists, and, in one instance, through legal proceedings which led to an out-of-court settlement.” <Source>

Bottom line …

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“Two Heads Are Better Than One”           (Damien Hurst – left, steve – right) Steve -(c) 2011 by Steve All Rights Reserved

The great thing about art is that you must be able to draw your own conclusions about the piece and the artist.

-- steve

P.S. For those who enjoy Damien Hirst, you might want to visit Artsy which is a nice cataloging of his work. Artsy is one of those sites that is truly beneficial to an appreciative audience of art lovers. I strongly recommend that you check it out if you enjoy art.


“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!

“Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance.”-- George Bernard Shaw

“Progressive, liberal, Socialist, Marxist, Democratic Socialist -- they are all COMMUNISTS.”

“The key to fighting the craziness of the progressives is to hold them responsible for their actions, not their intentions.” – OCS

"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius

“A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves, and traitors are not victims... but accomplices” -- George Orwell

“Fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt." (The people gladly believe what they wish to.) ~Julius Caesar

“Describing the problem is quite different from knowing the solution. Except in politics." ~ OCS

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