alan little’s weblog

but what is art, asked alice

24th October 2003 permanent link

I’m not normally in the habit of writing weblog entries saying “excellent posting by so and so, go and read it”, but now and again it can’t do any harm. Particularly when it’s as excellent as Alice Bachini’s deep philosophising on an Exhibition of Mediaeval “Art” at the V&A and what is art anyway? Was it in the middle ages what certain “high art” cliques have defined it as in the last couple of hundred years? (No). Is it what goes on in self-described “art galleries”, and is what goes on outside ”art galleries” not it? (No).

Quote from Alice:

So instead of asking ourselves, “But is it art?” we should be asking ourselves, “But is it any good ?” The Gothic knick-knacks I saw at the weekend were mostly very appealing. But this is 2003; we can do better. And I for one believe we are, and not just inside art galleries either

The comment I left:

You’re right. The idea that there is something that is Art-with-a-capital-A that exists on a different and somehow more elevated plane than grubby things like entertaining the masses, or making useful everyday things look pleasing, is and always has been utter garbage. It is a piece of romantic idealism that has poisoned people's minds for the last two hundred years and is hopefully now on the way out.

I can see no grounds at all for suggesting that things that actually do entertain the masses like, say, cinema or non-classical music or industrial design aren’t “art”, whereas things that were once wonderful but are now irrelevant dead genres, like literary novels or classical music, are. Anybody who can write a “History of Art” that covers the twentieth century without even mentioning photography or cinema is obviously an ignorant pretentious tosser. (Oops, Paul Johnson did)

Have been meaning to write something about this for a while but it's sitting in the “perpetually-unfinished profound stuff” pile. Whereas the stuff that actually makes it into my weblog mostly comes from the “quick throwaway things that I can bash out in half an hour on the train to work” bucket. Need to learn how to bash out profundity in half an hour.

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