Komar and Melamid “America’s Most Wanted Painting”
CREATION BY FOCUS GROUP: A 1994 Article on a Postmodern Art Event
In 1994 two Russian painters had surveys conducted of what people liked in art, and made paintings based on the results. The article notes some of the data collected:
Having initially planned to produce different ideal pictures for various demographic groups, in the manner of localised ad campaigns, Komar and Melamid wound up painting only two canvasses: America’s Most Wanted Painting (1994) and America’s Most Unwanted Painting (1994). This decision was dictated by the results of the survey, which surprisingly painted a picture of an aesthetically unified society whose tastes cut across social lines. Thus even though the preference for blue (the favourite of 44% overall) diminishes with increased income and education, it’s still the colour preferred by the majority in every group; ditto for paintings of outdoor scenes (88% overall), paintings with soft curves (66%) and those with fully clothed figures (68% to only 3% favouring nudes).
The image they generated is shown above. It’s pretty much a reflection of its times, a disjointed assemblage of a sort, despite the naturalistic style. It’s hard to see in the reproduction but there’s a hippopotamus at about 10 o’clock behind George Washington, to fulfill the demographic preference for wild animals (preferred by 51% over domestic breeds).
According to their research this was America’s Least Wanted Painting:
The subsequent promotion and analysis of the works oozed with postmodern irony and condescension. The Most Wanted Painting is presented as a work of incoherent kitsch. How gauche to create art that the general population might respond to!
It was an implied demonstration of how the establishment art world sneers at the backwards people who still expect art to contain beauty, skill, reverence, inspiration and a connection to life.
The exhibit was set up like a satire of a marketing department presentation, with supporting graphs and charts listing their statistics. But the deadpan adoption of the corporate style suggests a very different conclusion than what the artists may have intended.
I don’t read this as a wicked skewering of bourgeois taste. I see it demonstrating the catastrophic failure of the establishment.
This is what happens when relativism devours the minds and souls of our self-proclaimed elites. This is what happens when those who have no core values or guiding principles are in charge. This is what happens when our institutional systems of the arts, the media and education are completely dysfunctional.
Polling and phony populism allows them to craft a distraction from their agenda of looting and domination. The elitists try to pay lip service the whims of those the elitist systems have failed to inform and educate. The results are grotesque.
There is a lack of leadership among our would-be ruling class. That’s because their big ideas are they should be on top, and exempt from the rules they would inflict on others.
Their safe strategy is to keep all who would challenge these presumptions either ignorant, or co-opted into conforming with the elitist mindset. Joining in the derision against anyone who doesn’t accept muddleheaded postmodern nihilism is great way to signal one’s support of our masters.
The establishment uses contemporary art as a weapon to enforce inequality.
The Remodernism Manifesto of Billy Childish and Charles Thomson summarizes a solution to this distortion:
It is quite clear to anyone of an uncluttered mental disposition that what is now put forward, quite seriously, as art by the ruling elite, is proof that a seemingly rational development of a body of ideas has gone seriously awry. The principles on which Modernism was based are sound, but the conclusions that have now been reached from it are preposterous.
We address this lack of meaning, so that a coherent art can be achieved and this imbalance redressed.