In case you missed it, earlier this week a rich fool paid $120,000 at an art auction for a banana taped to a wall. A few days later, an attention-starved “performance artist” invaded the gallery, and ate the expensive banana. The winning bidder refused to pay for an eaten banana. Then someone else bid again and paid more: $150,000.
It’s okay to be stunned and confused by this story. It’s so outrageous, it’s almost incomprehensible. At barely a week old, the story isn’t done. It could get even more ridiculous.
Peddling non-sense as art is not new. But it’s only in recent history that we’ve gladly appreciated it. You’ll be surprised how this all started…
It Started as a Joke
It’s been just over 100 years since accomplished painter Marcel Duchamp trolled his own Society of Independent Artists (NYC). The Society suggested that a juried art show—where art was critically reviewed—was hindering the progression of art. Duchamp thought this was madness, so he anonymously submitted a bathroom urinal to the Society, and it was approved for the show. (Learn More: Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain in 1917) It became quite the controversy, and arguably his most famous work.*
Duchamp’s plan absolutely failed: he wanted to prove this was all nonsense. But instead, he proved the opposite. He proved that intellectuals are eager to rebel, even against the intellect itself. Duchamp would inspire a century of nonsensical copycats, each surrounded by gushing discourse from pretentious airheads.
If I am optimistic, I hope that this banana-duct-tape debacle is the final show of madness. We suspended objective judgment of beauty, now we are unable to separate the artists from the con-artists. It was an outrageous 100 years, but it’s over.
For the latter half of that century, it seems that many would-be artists have steered clear of the pretentious, vacuous “Art World” and instead enrolled in a design field: architecture, industrial design, graphic design, etc. As designers, they offered up their talent and creativity to solve real problems in the built world. We are all better for it.
But is there any real chance of redemption for the Art World? Will a new generation of talented people stay put with paintbrushes in hand? Can our galleries and museums once again be filled with beauty?
Instagram Save Us
There is another place where real talent is acknowledged and rewarded: Instagram. This new generation are craftspeople first, artists second. There is soul in what they do, but they will not waste time with fussy storytelling or tasteless controversy.
- Letterers: Stefan Kunz
- Graffiti Artists
- Illustrators: Baritus Catholic, Dana Tanamachi
- Fiber Artists: Be Good Natured
- Calligraphers: Sachin Shaw, Jake Weidmann, Maggie Elise Ward
- Leatherworkers: Cary Schwarz
- Potters: Helen Levi
- Animation Artists: Rachel Ryle
- Floral Artists: Flora Forager, Anne Wood
- Sign Painters
- Woodworkers: Jake Weidmann
- And yes, Painters: Teil Duncan Henley
If you want hope in art, follow those people on Instagram. Some day they’ll show up in a gallery or museum in your city. Buy the ticket, bring lots of friends, and let the curators know that they are on the right path. Write letters of gratitude to the museum underwriters. This is how we re-create the Art World.
*Marcel Duchamp’s best work, IMOO, is right here.
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