Why People Hate Art
A rich guy we know gives generously to a wide and cheering cross-section of charities: Special Olympics, animal shelters, American Cancer Society, institutions of higher learning. He feels good giving away some of his millions to any cause or appeal, except “the arts.” That he won’t do.
The arts, he’s told us in so many words, have made him feel confused, mocked, ignorant, ornery, and profligate. Frequently his idea of “the arts” doesn’t match with what the arbiters of taste consider the arts; indeed, some of the arts he’s witnessed seem aggressively inartistic and ugly. And why would he want to support that?
Speaking as both an artist and a libertarian, I wholeheartedly support the rich man’s prerogative to give (or not give) as he sees fit. And I understand how “the arts” have disappointed him. (Disappointing and confusing the masses may, in fact, be what some types of art are all about, but they oughtn’t expect to be subsidized by the people they’re alienating.) One of the terrible problems our arts – figurative, performance, and otherwise – face is that they draw much of their power from their insularity. Viewers and audiences must come inside the secret world these arts inhabit, where a new vocabulary of signs and symbols speak to those fluent in the code. But if one is busy being an American consumer, chasing after more luxury acquisitions, one has little time to decipher the dense hermeneutics of the art world.
Here’s an excerpt from a gallery catalogue we read the other day, reprinted here verbatim.
“In her series “Somatic Telesthesia” (meaning bodily response to extra-sensory stimuli) Jane Artist conflates personal information and recollection in order to examine and recapitulate the response of the individual to her society. By layering autobiographical traces, Jane moves beyond dispassionate analysis of what she calls “cultural imprinting;” she recalls her original reaction to social effects and conditions, and at the same time reacts in the present tense to those recollections, layering not just imagery but knowledge, emotion, and time itself. The whole picture is thus more than the sum of its parts, both in meaning and in image, as manifested in the Artist’s virtuositic exploitation of the color photocopy process.”
Is it any wonder that the rich man prefers to endow doggie rescues?
Good and rewarding art will (and in our view should) remain challenging and provocative. It will make us feel and think and understand just a wee bit better what it means to be alive on this planet. But if it relies on pretensions and posturing instead of authenticity, art will garner the mistrust and ire it deserves.