“Aesthetics Have Nothing to Do with It.”

It really doesn’t get any more obvious than everything you’ll read in this article, written by James B. Stewart for the “Business Day” section of the New York Times under the sub-heading “Common Sense,” starting with the title:

With Art, Investing in Genius

Here’s just a taste:

The soaring prices are being driven by market forces rather than any aesthetic or artistic awakening, Professor Galenson said. “Aesthetics have nothing to do with it.”

What does matter, Professor Galenson’s research suggests, is innovation by the artist. “It’s really incredibly simple,” he said. “Valuable paintings are innovative. Valuable artists are innovators. Cézanne did his most influential work at the very end of his career, Picasso at the very beginning, when he invented Cubism. Nineteen sixty-two is when Warhol started using mechanical reproductions and photography and reinvented modern art. His works from the 1960s are the very most expensive. Those from the 1980s are much less.”

Timely words, considering what I just posted yesterday.

In essence, our modern culture boasts of millions invested on aesthetics that don’t matter and hollow innovation.

Sadly, little can be done to charlatan vampires that roam freely in the sun.

* Photo by Andrew Gombert/European Pressphoto Agency, pulled from the New York Times website.

From Odd Nerdrum to Igor Stravinsky and a Favorite Quote on the Creative Process

I have a recent habit of saving a variety of essays, forums posts and articles I find on the internet as PDFs then assembling them into one bundle, which I print as a bound book and carry around with me for a month or so to read and contemplate.  In the latest collection I included an article I found on the “Artcyclopedia” entitled The Importance of Being Odd: Nerdrum’s Challenge to Modernism.

In it, I was especially taken with the following anecdote regarding his entry to the National Academy of Art in 1962: “The application had included three paintings. Two of them were reasonably finished, while the third one had been hurriedly thrown together to meet the deadline. The fact that this was the one that the committee found so promising as to admit him into the nation’s leading art school, made him question the criteria applied to modern art.”  That story ends with the following quote:

This was too easy; it offered too little resistance.

This immediately struck a chord and reminded me of a quote by Igor Stravinsky:

In art, as in everything else, one can only build upon a resisting foundation: whatever constantly gives way to pressure constantly renders movement impossible.  My freedom will be so much greater and more meaningful the more narrowly I limit my field of action and the more I surround myself with obstacles.  Whatever diminishes constraint diminishes strength.

I can think of no better silver bullet against the contemporary art world’s notion that craft is optional and a decipherable criteria for quality is irrelevant.