Modern Art Part 3 – So what?

4 Apr

After discussing the origins of modern art and some methods to help appreciate it more, even I’m left wondering what to make of it all.  I’m not a postmodernist philosopher, nor am I a great expert on the subject.  I can say this for modern art – it’s certainly never boring.  I might not particularly like a good percentage of what I see, but I don’t find myself lacking for something to think about.  That’s one of the fundamental aspects of modern art.  It’s often supposed to be challenging and make you think.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves with philosophy and “artist’s statements” and the like.  To do so would be to ignore one part of the art world that is often overlooked.  It’s a business.  It always has been to a certain degree, to be sure, but since the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the merchant class it’s only gotten worse.  These days we have galleries looking for the next big thing, museums bending over backwards to get people (especially donors) through the door, and even cities and states looking to show their stature with public art displays by prominent artists.  All forms of art have always had an uneasy relation with commerce, and the visual arts are no exception.  Those in the art world often try to avoid acknowledging this, however.

They and the general public have long put art up on a pedestal, but doing so prevents us from developing any kind of connection to modern art.  When we stop to realize that the art world is just as concerned with making money, being a trendsetter, and gaining an audience as any other part of modern culture the veneer of elitism starts to vanish.  One doesn’t need any special training or knowledge about artists or movements.  There are good artists, there are bad artists, and it takes patience on the part of the viewer to start to see through all the screaming and discover what they really enjoy.

Lacking the passage of time and the ability to say which works were truly revolutionary and had an influence on the development of art, contemporary art is really just a matter of taste.  Like all subjective areas there are those who are considered the taste makers, those who follow the taste makers, and those who don’t have any idea what all the fuss is about.

Despite all this, however, art remains a vital part of the human experience.  There are those out there who are creating new and fascinating works that reflect our society and do so in a way that is interesting to the average viewer.  Art still belongs to the world, we just have to make an effort.  Going to a modern art museum might not be your idea of a thrilling Saturday afternoon, but doing to can be hugely rewarding.  If you stop making direct comparisons to the Old Masters and enjoy modern art for what it is, bear in mind the world in which it was created, and start to put stock in what you really think about each piece, it can become an incredibly interesting experience.  Just go see it.  Give it a chance.



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