ARTICLE: Another Big Lie of the Contemporary Art World Revealed

John Latham “Time Base Roller”

Make some effort to try to understand the works, you bumpkins



“So why are people put off by conceptual art? Often it’s because the artist or gallery hasn’t taken any steps to explain the concepts behind the work. Most visitors to galleries would happily make some effort to try to understand the works but are often only provided with a convoluted press release that includes a line about the work speaking for itself — when it clearly doesn’t.

“For these reasons many visitors will often not engage with the works and be snootily labelled by art world insiders as ‘not getting it’.”

In case you haven’t followed the stultifying degeneration of the contemporary art scene,  you might not know Conceptual Art has been the Next Big Thing for about 50 years now. In Conceptual Art, the idea is now an “artist” only needs to have an idea. The actual object can be made by someone else, or be an already existing common object put into a new artistic context,  or maybe even not be made at all, but only exist as a documented thought. If a new tangible object is produced, it’s likely been farmed out to anonymous technicians who have actual skills. But it’s the name brand artist who takes the credit and the big money. The lack of actual ability and accomplishment is disguised by lots of pseudo-intellectual academic jargon, designed to obscure rather than illuminate.

Writer Tom Wolfe, in his classic take down of the art world, The Painted Word, had these pretenders pegged back in 1975:

“…there, at last, it was! No more realism, no more representation objects, no more lines, colors, forms, and contours, no more pigments, no more brushstrokes. …Art made its final flight, climbed higher and higher in an ever-decreasing tighter-turning spiral until… it disappeared up its own fundamental aperture…”

Khan gives the game away in his article, but does not seem to realize it:

“After all, the godfather of conceptual art, Marcel Duchamp’s concepts weren’t particularly complex. By placing a urinal in a gallery he was questioning how you define what art is, and whether the artist and the setting give weight to an artwork. Philosophical questions which are still relevant today.”

What Marcel Duchamp did-besides probably stealing the credit for his most infamous work from a mentally ill woman artist– was twist art from a vibrant, visceral experience into an ironic elitist assertion. The date of R. Mutt’s toilet in the gallery was 1917. It’s literally been a hundred years, and the establishment art world is all in on simply creating variations on the same old tired shock tactics.

Conceptual superstar Damien Hirst

This is different because it’s a toilet and a dead animal

Khan nails it when he says Duchamp (or whoever it really was) was not complex. Where he gets it so wrong is assuming that words can be used to justify the inadequate offerings of our corrupted cultural institutions.

Khan obviously believes art needs an enlightened priest caste to transmogrify and translate art for the ignorant peasants. It’s an arrogant assumption very prevalent inside the art world bubble. The Postmodern creative class blames the audience instead of looking at their own failures to communicate and connect.

Art does have a philosophical element to it-but it is so much more than that. And words can never act as a substitute for a visual experience which moves and inspires. Ultimately art is a mysterious, timeless expression that cannot be reduced to language. If we could say it, we wouldn’t have to show it to you.

The art world rebels the Stuckists know the truth. At the core of their principled stand for an art of the people, by the people, for the people, they state a truth we can hold to be self evident:

“Art that has to be in a gallery to be art isn’t art.”

-The Stuckist Manifesto


Edit: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please visit other entries for more on the state of the arts.

37 thoughts on “ARTICLE: Another Big Lie of the Contemporary Art World Revealed

  1. Not to disagree, not at all… but you didn’t mention that art, today, has to be “transgressive.” If it ain’t transgressive, it ain’t worth a shit. But in learning this about art, I found myself reflecting on transgressivism. What is it? To be transgressive is to challenge, perhaps to break through, boundaries… the social boundaries we associate with good manners, behaviors appropriate to context, self discipline, and so on. The successfully (that is, the belligerently) transgressive artist claims to show us where these boundaries are.

    You know who else are known for transgressive behaviors?


  2. The “art” shown here sucks and it just goes to show you that there are plenty of people with too much money who want to talk about important they are and that you need to give the govt money to help others while they sell this crap for thousands.

  3. For the clueless dolts who subsidize this stuff, it’s all about status signalling. In this controlled insanity age of cognitive dissonance, the worse the better.

  4. Dada Art isnt Art at all. It is anti Art. Collectivists despise the individualism of true art. So the ctrl-left decided to destroy true Art by calling a jesus statue submerged in urine “Art”…

  5. First the Artist must be a craftsman. If he cannot reproduce his art he is not an artist, he is a pretender.

  6. “Art” whose sole purpose/idea/message is to question what is art, and what is not; answer that question by giving us a data point: “This is not art.”

  7. These “anti-art” artists remind me of the musical establishment from the movie Amadeus. In response to Mozart’s effort of writing an opera in German, one elitist insisted opera HAD to be in Italian. After all, he sniffed, “All educated people agree on that.”

    The self-appointed elite’s sense of superiority is probably worse today.

  8. If their work is so fantastic why are we forced to subsidize it?
    To paraphrase Freud sometimes a pile of dogshit is just a pile of dogshit.

  9. As a professional stand up comic, I was struck by Khan’s. Choice of words– “not getting it.”. It made me realize why, after all these years, conceptual art has rankled me. I live through creating jokes. And one of the truths about jokes is, ” If you have to explain the joke…” (It’s a truth so fully accepted that one doesn’t even have to finish the sentence.) I would stare at Duchamp’s urinal and wonder what the “punchline” might be. I viewed this kind of art as I viewed a joke… And it always fell short– as art and/or as a joke because it had to be explained. Artists should have to live by the same rules as comics.

  10. That is a great analogy-can’t fake humor any more than you can fake art-then there is this: “You can’t fake quality any more than you can fake a good meal.” – William Burroughs

  11. Wolfe was right ( my ex loved the “Painted Word”) the art world has translated itself into the ether, unfortunately it wont stay there.

  12. You hit it right on the head it’s “dead”. Like the Monty Python skit , deceased, departed, singing in the choir invisible………………………… and they don’t even know it.

  13. Conceptual art might have a place if the ideas were interesting or witty. But the ideas are normally banal.

  14. Thanks for the Wolfe link. Haven’t read him for decades. Time to take a look again. It’s knowingly small, but I occasionally drop a sarcastic comment to my art professor/artist stepdaughter to off foot her a touch. She and her co-horts have painted themselves into a tiny, boring corner.

  15. Very interesting article, Conceptual Art is indeed very difficult to ‘read’ – I am very happy I discovered your blog today. Please have a look at my blog and post that I wrote on the works of two contemporary artists – Gabriele Viertel and Henrik Uldalen – looking forwards to reading more of your posts:)

  16. Why only White, Christan and Western sounding names are superstars in Galleries? Whereas, we from Asia in general and remote Indo-Bhutan region are producing stories and poetry on canvas through different mediums seldom able to make even an invitation for fair assessment on our work of expression?
    Is it selective bias and obsessive fallacy?
    Despite all odds, we are engaged to the creative process of visual aesthetics , deterministic dynamics of experience and statics of artistic storytelling…
    May be, someday someone look at us — despite not from imposed and repetitive spoon feed school of skill building institutions, we can make more pluralistic and divergent series of fine arts.

  17. The art world is corrupt, but the only type of “diversity” that they do not wholeheartedly promote and practice is philosophical diversity. These assertions are very much in line with the establishment’s approved agenda.

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