“Beauty and the Best” and a Boyfriend

“Artists should be separated from people who do creative things” was my boyfriend’s response to my description of Theodore Dalrymple’s article in The New English Review, mentioned previously here.

By that, he meant that saying a chef was an artiste was hyperbolic, only meaning he cooked very well. He also meant that more conceptual and non-traditional works of contemporary art, such as rings of circles in duct tape or performances where a person sits on a box for days or even Pippilotti Rist’s video and sound installation in the atrium at MoMA, are cool, are visual, and are creative but that they are not art.

Dalrymple’s trenchant article has stayed in my mind, but all my conclusions from it seem to be drawing lines in the sand, much as my boyfriend’s statement does. “This is Art; this is not.” As if there were a right and wrong, and a good and bad when it comes to art.

But in fact, isn’t there? Art requires a set of aesthetic values to be judged by, if we are to make judgments at all. Life and art, or at least my life and art, are more than a series of perceptions. They have meaning to me, and they do because I assign to all things value. This is no formal declaration of organizing principles either for myself or of culture in general. But as my life has meaning, and art has meaning to me, and I think some organizing principle guides my perceptions of art.

Dalrymple’s article feels true to my experiences. He considers popular contemporary art to be shallow and created by egoists who are too afraid to create something beautiful, not to mention lacking the technical means and knowledge of an artistic heritage to do so. Think of Jeff Koons, who he mentions, or Damian Hirst or Murakami. To strive for beauty seems too earnest, almost gauche today.

So perhaps my boyfriend and Dalrymple are saying similar things. One feels it is not art, the other that it is bad art. Perhaps I agree. My amusement and interest with much of contemporary art is just that; and those feelings are different than a reaction to something beautiful. People who look can find beauty and an expression of the human condition in a falling leaf or the texture of a wall. A beautiful work of art makes those qualities apparent to those who weren’t looking.

One thought on ““Beauty and the Best” and a Boyfriend

  1. Beauty and the BEAST!
    One must always remember that “ART is timely and timeless…” and that it will always document the time period in which it is made…Hence, comtemporary art is just that…”timely” of course…Jeff Koons is merely documenting the superficial extravagances of our lifestyles since the 80’s when I witnessed his first show down in SoHo… and “timeless” …Warhol’s” Soups” an artistic contribution in the 60’s…and Damien, well…of course he is over the top, or is he?
    Artists seem to be the precursers of our lifestyles and forever document them in our contemporary (now) art history

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