Monday 8 September 2014

Stupidity (Part VII)                        

Art is a medium through which we express our emotions, intellect and ideas. It is through art that we can communicate to the world our inner feelings and our creativity that only exists within our minds. Art has many forms from visual arts to performing arts. 

However, some of the most stupid forms of art I have seen or read about involves paintings. Forty years ago, I visited the major art gallery in Toronto, Canada which is called the Toronto Art Gallery. Some of the paintings were very good. What really turned me off was a framed gunnysack with six burn marks created by a cigarette. The title of this so-called work of art was “Combustion”. I was so pissed off at the gallery’s choice of such nonsense; I decided not to visit that gallery again and to this day, I have never returned to that art gallery.

Now I will tell you of other pieces of art which forces the average person to ask themselves, “Why would anyone pay that much for this kind of artwork?” Keep in mind that a painting’s monetary value doesn’t necessarily reflect its aesthetic worth.  This accounts for the fact that the value of a painting at an auction is not necessarily the real value of a painting. It’s the value of two people bidding against each other because they each really want the painting. Those are impetuous moments, and money becomes meaningless. The purchase of the painting has absolutely nothing to do with its artistic value. Millionaires consider their paintings as the ultimate luxury brand, the obvious choice for unimaginative multimillionaires who want to hang something recognizable above the fireplace that is guaranteed to show off their wealth and taste to those who while standing before it don’t necessarily admire the paintings but they are dazzled by the price paid for them.  Whatever other value it may have, art is a commodity, coveted and traded by the rich and powerful, for status and prestige. To acquire the world’s most expensive paintings, even the ugly ones, you need to be worth billions, not millions.

Here is what originally happened with Picasso. His father was friends with many wealthy people, so when Picasso would create a piece even when it was ugly, they would pay thousands of dollars for them, making the public see how desirable these works of art were. This started a buying frenzy of dealers, the wealthy, and art galleries. When a dealer would obtain them on consignment, they could raise the price drastically because there was a huge demand for them. There was such a demand for Picasso’s paintings, you were considered a real somebody if you had a Picasso in your home and as usual, when an artist dies, their work becomes much more expensive.

Three colored horizontal bars

I don’t know what the real name of this so-called painting is but it is a huge painting. The canvas would have covered an entire wall. I can’t remember the colors either but I think they were the three primary colors Can you believe it? It sold for a million dollars. My six-year-old granddaughter could paint three horizontal colours on a canvas. Can anyone justify spending a $100million on a single painting?  Why would anyone pay a million dollars for such nonsense? Apparently someone did. 

False Start painting by Jasper Johns                                                         

Johns is regarded as a Neo-Dadaists and it has been said that he rejected the unique individualism of the Abstract Expressionists. His painting is merely a splash of various colors on the canvas.  Are you ready for this? He sold it for $80 million dollars. 

Woman III painting by Willem De Kooning                                                      

This painting is one of the ugliest paintings I have ever seen. The colors are grey and brown and the woman looks like a picture painted by a child.  It was originally hung in Iran until it was deemed “unsuitable” for public display. It was sold to financial billionaire, Steven Cohen for the staggering $137.5 million dollars.  

Paintings by artists dead long ago


I can appreciate why artistic works by artists long gone are worth a great deal of money. They didn’t paint abstract paintings. Their paintings were extremely good and in many instances, life-like, except those painted by Vincent Van Gogh.

Here are some of the paintings painted by long-deceased artists.

Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci is valued at $642,000,000.
The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci is valued at $510,000,000.
 School of Athens by Raphael is valued at $480,000,000.
Girl with a Pearl Earring by Jan Vermeer is valued at $390,000,000.
Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh is valued at $345,000,000.
Night Watch by Rembrandt is valued at $305,000,000.
Impression Soleil Levant by Claude Monet is valued at $265,000,000.
A Bar at the Folies-Berg by Edouard Manet is valued at $215,000,000.

Adolf Hitler was a painter. I have seen some of his paintings. They weren’t bad but apparently they were not good enough to get him into a school for artists. That’s most unfortunate. If he had been accepted as a student, he may have made a living as an artist instead of being a Nazi dictator that brought about 50 million deaths in Europe. What will his paintings be worth a hundred years from now? After all, he is deceased as of 1945. 

Gross and stupid sculptures

Sculptures are also among the different art forms that falls under visual art. Sculptures can be defined as a three-dimensional art form that uses materials like clay, glass, stone or wood for its execution. Sculptures are essentially made in two ways. Either they are formed bit by bit into a particular shape and structure as it is in the case of a clay sculpture or it is chiseled and carved from a block of wood,  chiseled from a piece of stone or marble or formed from glass.  There are many sculptures that an amateur can take inspiration from while attempting to make a sculpture.

But some of these sculptures are really gross and stupid and yet some people pay large sums of money to obtain them. I am going to tell you about one form of art that is so gross, it would make a pig throw up.

Piero Manzoni was born on July 13, 1933 (born four months before I was born) and died on February 6, 1963 at age 30.  He was an Italian artist best known for his ironic approach to avant-garde art. His early paintings were conventional and his sales of them meagre so he decided to forego painting and decided to go into a form of artwork in which the word ‘gross’ is by far an understatement.  What follows is a creation he titled as Merde d’ Artiste. In English it is, Artist’s Shit. If you aren’t squeamish, read on.

In May 1961 Manzoni obtained 90 small 30-gram cans and sealed them  with the artist's shit in each of the cans.  They were priced by weight based on the current value of gold (around $1.12 a gram in 1960). The contents of the cans remained a much-disputed enigma, since opening them would destroy the value of his so-called artwork. Various theories about the contents have been proposed, including speculation that it is plaster inside of them. Of course, the only way you could be sure is to open them but once opened, they would then become worthless.  I know what you are thinking, Even if his shit is in each of them, they are still worthless. Is that what you really think? In the following years, the cans have spread to various art collections all over the world and netted large prices, far outstripping inflation. The most recent can (#83) to be sold, was purchased by some fool in October 2008. Get ready for it.  The dumb fool actually paid £97,250. ($162,684.12 USD) for a can of Manzoni’s shit.

Now when you think about it, he wasn’t a stupid as you think. He must have believed that there are really dumb rich fools in the world that will buy his  shit by the can. His belief became a reality.

Some sculptures have strong messages to give to the viewing public. Surely one of the most powerful ones that I have seen was created by Martin Hudacek. The sculpture is of a young woman on her knees holding her face in despair while a girl approximately eight years of age is standing in front of her touching the top of her had as if to console her. The sculpture depicts a woman having regrets about having an abortion.

When I visited the Vatican in 1974, I was amazed at the beauty of one of the sculptures called Laocoön and His Sons. It is one of the most famous ancient sculptures ever since it was excavated in Rome in 1506 and placed on public display in the Vatican, where it remains to this day.   It is a little over 2 m (6 ft 7 in) in height. It was created in the time of Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD.

As I see it, there is truth in that old adage that beauty can only be seen in the eye of the beholder. If you see beauty in a statue made out of cow pies (shit) that your concept of beauty is far different than mine but if you see beauty in artwork that is stunningly painted or crafted, then we are alike when it comes to admiring good works.

Burn marks on a gunny sack and cans of shit are not my idea of artwork that is to be admired. To me, it is crap. Now there is a play on words. But if you are rich and will buy anything to impress your friends, call me. I will spit in small bottles and sell them to you for a mere $50,.000. Hey! if you are willing to buy Manzoni’s shit, you can afford to buy my sputum?  

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