COMMENTARY: The Art World’s Self-Serving Lies

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BEING SMOTHERED IN THEIR OWN TANGLED WEBS: BBC News Roger Scruton’s “How Modern Art Became Trapped by its Urge to Shock”

Key quote from the article, a summary of how the contemporary art world conspires to inflate inferior productions and specious reputations:

“Originality requires learning, hard work, the mastery of a medium and – most of all – the refined sensibility and openness to experience that have suffering and solitude as their normal cost.

“To gain the status of an original artist is therefore not easy. But in a society where art is revered as the highest cultural achievement, the rewards are enormous. Hence there is a motive to fake it. Artists and critics get together in order to take themselves in, the artists posing as the originators of astonishing breakthroughs, the critics posing as the penetrating judges of the true avant-garde.

“In this way Duchamp’s famous urinal became a kind of paradigm for modern artists. This is how it is done, the critics said. Take an idea, put it on display, call it art and brazen it out. The trick was repeated with Andy Warhol’s Brillo boxes, and then later with the pickled sharks and cows of Damien Hirst. In each case the critics have gathered like clucking hens around the new and inscrutable egg, and the fake is projected to the public with all the apparatus required for its acceptance as the real thing.”

Roger Scruton, the author of the article, is described as a philosopher, so perhaps he is a little more charitably nuanced than I’m inclined to be. He makes a distinction between fakes and lies, the difference being that fakes involve self-deceit, the perpetrators at least somewhat believing in their own falsity.

The destructive outcomes of such practices make me less interested in the subtle psychological machinations underlying the con artists of the contemporary creative class. It’s their results that matter, and they are creating by their consensus a world of garbage that undermines not only the culture industries, but society as a whole.

William Blake, one of the greatest artists of all time, understood the connection. “The foundation of empire is art and science remove them or degrade them and the empire is no more — empire follows art and not vice versa as Englishmen suppose.” Empire in this sense doesn’t refer to a specific form of government but more so a culture, the authority of a way of thought, a sense of shared values. Our post modern friends would refer to this as a hegemony.

But to post moderns nothing is true, everything is relative. They are victims of a kind of magical thinking, believing their attitudes, opinions and theories can alter reality. Presto, this awkwardly stuffed shark is now expensive art!

Most people see the lie in this, and scoff, or just turn away. The self-proclaimed cultural elites reassure each other that anyone who doesn’t buy into their shtick is an inferior who can be safely disregarded.

Only a prosperous and secure society could afford to coddle such a misguided and decadent educated class. But we’re arriving at the point such parasites are killing the host, and destroying the prosperity and security that made their silly mindset possible. The relativistic and deconstructive practices of post modern thought now infects our media, education, and government, and are eroding the functionality and foundations of civilization itself.

Just like the artists did, the wannabe ruling class is putting up ridiculous notions, calling them real, and trying to brazen it out. In each case they can rely on the clucking hens of the arts, academia, and the media to project the fraud at the public with all their might.

Scruton might soften these affronts with some credit for the self-delusion of the participants, but I’m not inclined to. The motivation for these assaults on enduring principles is the effort to gather unaccountable power into the hands of a few, and no good can come from such efforts.

The art world is just displaying symptoms of a vast corruption festering in our culture that must be confronted.

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20 thoughts on “COMMENTARY: The Art World’s Self-Serving Lies

  1. Reblogged this on Joanna K Neilson and commented:
    “William Blake, one of the greatest artists of all time, understood the connection. “The foundation of empire is art and science remove them or degrade them and the empire is no more — empire follows art and not vice versa as Englishmen suppose.” Empire in this sense doesn’t refer to a specific form of government but more so a culture, the authority of a way of thought, a sense of shared values. Our post modern friends would refer to this as a hegemony.”

  2. I’m with you on the fakery and lying. And it’s dismaying to see attention and money thrown at such. But is it necessary to the quality and prolificity of unfaking, true artists to have attention and money thrown at them? If it’s all about the art, why make it all about the money?

  3. Nice article, and I agree with it, these deceits have to be confronted. The artist who have bought into easy solutions and rely on shock value have helped lose credibility for honest, committed artists and the art world in general. Your bringing in the complicity of the elite is something I hadn’t considered consciously, but it also feels true.

    I think that the most powerful thing we all can do to displace inauthentic art, is to keep making authentic work. Also there is a lot of truly regenerative work being done in the arts now involving healing of the damage our society has done to the earth and its inhabitants on many levels. Artist are creating sculptures that are also animal habitats, they are greening urban areas, making protest art about plastic in the seas, going to live in impoverished areas to being reconciliation and empowerment thrugh the act of creating. It goes on and on and is unstoppable, there is so much hope.
    Sarah

  4. The corruption is there, But I agree with Scruton, and don’t think he’s being charitable when he says they believe their own lies. These fakers don’t know what art is themselves. They are so superficial, they think it is a child’s game. They believe that the intention is equal in importance to the finished product. And the test is how many likes you can get, If the crowd yells ‘art!’, then it’s art. They believe that the world is a sphere because everyone else does (now). And if everyone thought it was flat, they would believe that too. It’s not a conspiracy… it’s the victory of ignorance.

  5. Powerful actions indeed, to push the false idols from their perches! I always say this junk can only survive as a monopoly, create a compelling alternative and their whole game falls apart.

  6. It just goes to show what society values, and is willing to support. it’s not about the money, the money is just a symptom of where the attention of our culture is focused-and right now it’s deep in the shite, being dragged there against our wills due to the actions of a malicious few.

  7. So, you’re saying when I see a tiny dot on a huge white canvas displayed at MOMA, and my first reaction is, “that’s just bullsh*t,” I’m right? I think your assessment is very insightful and on point. Thanks!

  8. But before we can confront cultural rot, we have to be able to recognize it for what it is. In the current socio-political atmosphere, failure to embrace approved standards brands one as a heretic and extremist.

  9. Heck yes I’m a heretic and an extremist. Throw barbarian in there too, for that is what I am from the viewpoint of the self anointed cosmopolitans wrapped all snug in their decadent cocoon. We’ve come to sack their city, and I doubt they have the ability to resist the determined assault of those who have no respect for their false authority.

  10. Reblogged this on The Worlds of Tarien Cole and commented:
    Well-stated. And the problem of ‘just turning away’ is that unless it is actively negated, the practitioners of this facade will think themselves justified. And they will use their media megaphones to convince people they’re right. Just as they have in so-called ‘literary fiction,’ which they can’t accept has contributed strongly to the death of reading.

  11. Reblogged this on The Arts Mechanical and commented:
    I think that postmodernism’s biggest flaw is it’s sterility. Whether in art, culture, or politics it keeps having to copy the past because post modernism has proved to be unable to create, anything.

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