L: A scribble by Jack (a 5 year old), R: ‘Laburnum’ by Hans Hoffman (a “proper” artist?)
There was a study released that says that one in three art students can’t tell a famous painting from paintings made by monkeys and children.
While this is kind-of-really hilarious, I’m more curious why we give prestige to anything that can be confused with something produced by a monkey.
Don’t get me wrong. Monkeys are pretty great. A little freaky, probably, but you know – we evolved from them and all that crap, and they eat bananas, which are delicious, so they can’t be all that bad.
But when it comes to art, I can’t see them producing something on par with Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night”.
And yet… some of the art that is praised looks the same as if a monkey did make it.
I’m all for the notion that “art is art.” BUT. We seem to impose these notions that some art is great just because of who made it. Take, for example, “No. 13 (White, Red on Yellow)” by Mark Rothko
Or “Blue Green Red” by Ellsworth Kelly.
Both are on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Both are considered art. Both are really nothing more than panels of color. You or I could make something similar and call it art, but they sure as shit wouldn’t hang that in The Met next to Monet and Dali. (Although it would be interesting to try, because I could use several million dollars and I’d be interested in doing nothing more than painting shapes for the rest of my life. Then I could use my money to buy an island or something and make it rain M&Ms.)
The point is: if we strip away the prestige and title of a painting and can’t decipher it from a painting made by a toddler or by an animal, then why is it prestigious in the first place?
This isn’t the only time when this applies. People have a hard time telling the difference between expensive and cheap wine or pate from dog food (true story!). Most of the stuff that has value and worth only has value and worth because we think that it should.
I mean, I should know. For the longest time, I had an irrational attachment to a phone case. The phone case had been touched (yes, touched) by my then-favorite celebrity, Nick Carter (why yes, he is a member of the Backstreet Boys, and I don’t even care). I met him and I had my friend, Chrissy, on the phone and I asked him to say “hello” to her. He did, using my phone and, in the process, touching that phone case to his cheek. He touched it to his cheek. HE TOUCHED IT TO HIS CHEEK! Eighth-grade me was riveted by this and couldn’t bear throwing it away (or letting anyone else touch it, for that matter, for fear that it would be “tainted”).
Even then, I think I had some inkling of just how bizarre and crazy and irrational that was. I couldn’t help myself, though. To anyone else, it was just a phone case (and a pretty ugly one at that). To me, it was special because he had touched it (in the same way that someone might think that a hat owned by Johnny Depp might be special).
Most of the time, we push our own feelings or perceptions on things – usually objects, but I guess it’s sometimes also fitting for people or places – and it makes us come to illogical conclusions. Sometimes it’s a big group of us admiring the same thing (like a Jackson Pollock painting) and sometimes it’s something personal, that wouldn’t mean nearly the same to someone else as it does to you.
It makes us think that a piece of art (which actually looks like a monkey swiped paint across his butt and sat on the paper) is “REAL ART” worthy of being admired and praised simply because of who it was created by. That the Chateau Lafite 1787 $160,000 bottle of wine (the most expensive wine in the world, I looked it up! Google never lies! Ever!) is somehow a million times better and more worthy of drinking than the $13.98 bottle of Apple Crannie (a real wine from a local vineyard, which is quite delicious). That a phone case touched to the cheek of a childhood role model somehow holds the essence of that person. Perceptions make us do crazy things.
For the record, I still have the phone case. But I keep it now to remind me of how crazy I was as a kid, not because he touched it. I swear.