Rant 11 - Beeeaaauuuttttty
Sally Hewett, Sisters under the skin (Painted Lady), 2012. Lycra, padding, stitching, embroidery, seed pearls, quilting hoop. 46cm x 46cm x 15cm
If beauty is still an important factor in today's society does that mean we only like looking at landscape paintings? This week we look into the aesthetics of contemporary art.
Which beholder has the most credible opinion? More importantly, is there anything of this topic left to scrape at the bottom of the barrel? A discussion seemingly doomed to circulate forever recently began and ended, described by Stephen Bayley in the Guardian. The question is whether Britain has become indifferent to beauty, even though this could be answered in five minutes’ glance at any of the huge selection of celebrity fashion magazines or a round in front of reality self help get naked reinvention shows. In any case they talked it out and decided, with relief, that beauty is still important to us.
Opposing the eventual outcome, philosopher Roger Scruton argued that Britain’s government sacrifices “utility to beauty” yet failed to consider that perfect utility could be aesthetic in itself, whilst David Starkey claimed that “we must recognise that Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, those apostles of ugliness and foulness, are to art what Bernard Madoff is to investments.”
Hirst was reliant on a market yearning for decorative art objects, and his works are kitsch in that they are trying to be popularly beautiful. According to Komar and Melamid’s surveys of various publics worldwide the most wanted paintings are almost always accurately executed landscapes, as though they were created to please a patron landowner. Perhaps there’s a grain of truth in Starkey’s comparison in terms of manipulating the market, though Hirst never swindled anyone that didn’t deserve it.
One of the Guardian’s water cooler conversations might have sparked this similarly motivated comment. Asking if science can explain why we go for certain art, Guy Mammann responds to recent book ‘The Art Instinct’ by Dennis Dutton, editor of the excellent collating site Arts and Letters Daily. According to the article, Dutton wrongly claims that ‘Modern’ art can’t be explained by genetics and represents a blip in terms of our brains understanding themselves. Thankfully, this shows why interesting artists would want to make art that is unpredictable and acknowledges impossibly articulated, subjective assumptions of beauty.
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