Earlier this month the art world was shaken by news that a banana duct-taped to a wall sold for $150,000 at Art Basel Miami. Maurizio Cattelan’s installation called Comedian, that included, yes!, a real banana taped to a wall, has become some kind of a sensation with some calling it conceptual art and others calling it a prank (read the background story here). The fact that someone would pay $150,000 for a banana taped to a wall calls into question the value of art and complicates an appraisal’s work even further.
Cattelan’s created three editions of his installation, two of whom sold for $120,000 to collectors identified by Artsy as Billy and Beatrice Cox of Miami, and Sarah Andelman, founder of Colette concept store in Paris, and part-time Catskills resident. Andelman’s vacation home in the Catskills was subject to a feature in Architectural Digest in the summer of 2018.
But is it art? The perishability of a mere banana contrasts significantly with what artists have traditionally sought in art – immortality. And how about artistic skills? Is it really any artistry involved in taping a banana to a wall?
Brands have capitalized on this commotion by creating their own duct-taped “art,” anything from a sandwich to a bottle of water, and more. All there is needed is a random object and duct tape, plus of course access to a wall. Read full story in Ad Age magazine.
Artnet has covered the topic and made it easy for readers to access the coverage all in one place: “To document for posterity how this humble piece of produce became a global phenomenon, we have pulled together all of our coverage in one place.”
Defining art has always been both challenging and disputed. In the 18th century, philosopher Moses Mendelssohn, grandfather of composer Felix Mendelssohn, argued that art is the carrying forward of the beautiful, obscurely recognized by feeling, until it becomes true and good; the aim of art is moral perfection, he claimed.
In What is Art? published in 1896, Leo Tolstoy argued that art is the transmission of an emotion felt by the artist (joy, exaltation, anger, sadness, etc.) – not all beauty, but all infectious emotion that the common man can experience. Tolstoy’s argument was an attack on formalism and the doctrine of art for art’s sake, an attack on unintelligibility and exclusiveness. He did not believe in professional artists, who, he thought, perverted art; instead he argued that all men can and should make art, thus proclaiming the universality of art.
In the 20th century, Roy Lichtenstein defiantly declared that organized perception is what art is all about. For Wassily Kandinsky, making art was an internal necessity that impelled the artist to create as a spiritual impulse and the audience to admire art as a spiritual hunger. It was that simple.
Tolstoy didn’t think that taste was the final arbiter of what was good and bad art; he defined taste as the capacity of an individual to be aesthetically pleased by certain works and displeased by others. He conceded however that taste can be educated, and artistic activities can be made accessible to all.
We wish you an artful New Year!
A lot has been written about the role of museums in the 21st century when collections can be seen and learned about in virtual galleries rather than taking the trip.
Traditionally, museums have played the role of research and educational institutions, not just as mere collectors and guardians of cultural artifacts. They have also been economic engines, strengthening local business climates through cultural tourism. The museum giftshops are amongst the most meaningful and artful shopping experiences that can capture wider and wider audiences. In recent years museums have begun playing a social and community function as well by offering services otherwise outside the scope of their mission, such as hosting training programs and other events. By visiting MoMA nowadays you can enjoy not just modern art, but also culinary art at its finest: the museum’s restaurant The Modern, which overlooks The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, has gotten a great review in The New York Times, Art on the Walls and on the Plates, as well as in the New York Magazine, Modern Love. At the Corning Museum of Glass you will not only explore thousands of years of glass history, but you will also learn to make glass yourself. At the Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown, upstate New York, you will be taught to print holiday cards, make lavender and rose water, and other 19th century activities, not just be told about them. Actors enacting different periods of time may also be on site, making it a “living” history experience to remember. In recent years holograms have emerged as a new way of experiencing a visit to a museum, understanding its artifacts, and be part of something you will never forget, as exemplified in an article for Gizmodo magazine.
Museums are community assets, and an integral part of the social fabric of our communities. According to Ford W. Bell, president of the American Alliance of Museums from 2007 to 2015, as quoted in a 2013 interview with CNN, “Museums hold more than 1 billion objects, and together these constitute our shared heritages cultural, historic, scientific, natural. As the keepers, protectors, interpreters and exhibitors of these heritages, museums play an essential role. In recent years, museums are playing perhaps an even more essential role, but one that is less tangible. In an increasingly virtual world, museums are among the last bastions of authenticity.”
How do museums remain relevant in the 21st century? In 2013 Linda Norris and Rainey Tisdale, two scholars and museum professionals, published a book titled Creativity in Museum Practice, replete with creativity exercises and stories from the field as a guide to developing an internal culture of creative learning in museums, and delivering an increased value to museum visitors. Creative leaders are looking for interactive programs, love to improvise, engage the community in conversations, and take risks.
There is a project underway called #FutureMuseum Project which explores this very question: how will museums of the future look like? According to Oliver Vicars-Harris, director at Connecting Culture, a museum consultancy based in London, “Museum curatorship will have evolved beyond preoccupation with preserving and presenting collections, to propensity for encouraging connections. A genuine two-way relationship will exist, with the audience given agency to drive the agenda. The distance between past and present will be reduced, with history providing meaning. The division between high and low art will be dissolved, with heritage providing contrast to popular culture.” The museums of the future will provide context to contemporary events. This is just one point of view. You can add your voice to the conversation by submitting your opinion to email@example.com.
Some of the best museum experiences are the ones we go to not just to learn, but also to socialize and converse. A visit to a museum will not only satisfy our curiosity, but it will also benefit our social life. It is by far more stimulating to gaze at a work of art with a friend, and muse over its meaning or aesthetic value, rather than doing it alone (although that has its own merit, especially for researchers and critics). Younger generations are increasingly driven by experiences rather than purchasing tangible goods: they prefer “collecting” memorable moments to physical objects. Museums, large and small, can benefit from this trend by offering “instagrammable” experiences to engage millennials, and making it part of their brand.
Among innovators, one can certainly name Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, which has recently introduced a program called The Art Hive that brings together art and well-being. The aim of the project is to form “a creative studio supervised by an art therapist, with art materials provided free of charge.” This will be a space “where participants can meet to discuss, participate or exhibit.” As a step further, as outlined in an article for Quartz magazine, doctors in Montreal will prescribe visits to the art museum.
You may be accustomed to visiting art, history and science museums, but in recent years museology has expanded to include for instance a National Language Museum, which opened in Washington DC in 2008, and currently operates only as a virtual museum, although some of its exhibits are available for loans; or the National Museum of Mathematics, which opened in New York City in 2012, and whose exhibits include seeing math as everyday experiences, news from the world of mathematics, but also more fun and playful activities such as using math symbols to create quirky logos, and other math inspired games.
It will be fascinating to see what the future brings in museum practice, and how the makers, collectors, curators, preservationists, and educators will transform visitor experience in the years to come.
© Simona David
ART CONVERSATION AND WRITING WORKSHOP WITH AUTHOR SIMONA DAVID
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2018, 1 – 2:30 PM
THE ZADOCK PRATT MUSEUM, 14540 MAIN STREET / RTE 23, PRATTSVILLE, NY
As guest of the Zadock Pratt Museum, Simona David, author of “How Art Is Made: In the Catskills” (2017), will talk about her experience interviewing artists, and discuss what moves and inspires the creative mind, how a new artistic project is born, how materials are used and different stylistic choices are made, how setbacks are dealt with, and how success is celebrated.
Ms. David will then teach a workshop on art writing, and discuss various research and writing techniques.
To register, call Pratt Museum at (518) 937-6120.
This event is funded in part with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 19, 2018, 1 – 3 PM
BLINK GALLERY, 454 Lower Main Street, Andes, New York 13731
Author Simona David will talk about her latest book How Art Is Made: In the Catskills (2017), and provide insights into a long-standing tradition that dates back to the days of Thomas Cole and Frederic Edwin Church.
How Art Is Made: In the Catskills pays homage to the place where American art was born through a series of conversations with creatives who live and work in the Catskills.
The book explores various artistic choices, what inspires and moves the artists, what draws them to their discipline, what materials they use, how they approach a new artistic project, how they deal with setbacks, and how they celebrate success.
Artists featured in the book include sculptor Brian Tolle, known for The Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City (2002), and more recently for Miss Brooklyn and Miss Manhattan, two replicas of Daniel Chester French originals that sit on the façade of the Brooklyn Museum – Tolle’s replicas were installed on Flatbush Avenue by the Manhattan Bridge in December 2016. Like many contemporary artists, Tolle maintains a studio and works in the Catskill Mountains.
BLINK GALLERY celebrates the creative spirit that resides within all artists with a focus on women artists. Learn more about the gallery’s mission at http://blinkandes.com/.