Sorting through the rubbish

Listed on October 17, 2014 in Blogs!

I think it was Andy Warhol who said that because he was an artist everything he made was art. That statement is both true and false. False because what we value as art is something much more complicated and ambiguous. In any age there is a mood which may promote the work of an artist to the top of the pile whilst the long duration of history will then send it off into obscurity. Contemporary art is only the art produced in our own time and almost certainly most of it will be inconsequential – even rubbish. But this statement should not be used to consign all contemporary art to the immediate fate of the skip. As I said, what we regard as art is complicated and ambiguous. To pick our way through the rubbish we need to engage with work made by artists and to ask ourselves what is it about and does it add anything to our lives or our perception of the society or time in which we live. Of course, we will not all agree on what has true value thanks to the ambiguity of ideas etc. Nor will we agree that a particular piece of work is work the price tag or the effort involved in its production or reception. Who are the arbiters and can we trust them? So where does this leave us? Well, I go back to the engagement thing, to make a bit of an effort and then a decision for yourself. This is where education can make a difference. Knowing your apples from your pears, your Picasso from your Braque is really helpful. Having the confidence to be indifferent, to be cynical or to be enthusiastic is hard won – especially if you are then asked to defend or justify your position. A true appreciation of art, and particularly the art of today, is never going to be easy.