A couple of weeks ago, I visited the Tate Modern and spent an enjoyable couple of hours  wondering why I failed to ‘appreciate’ the conceptual ‘art’.

If an alien race were to suddenly beam down to Planet Earth, we would doubtless find that many of our customs, religions, laws and other cultural practices would take them by surprise.

None more so than a visit to the Tate Modern, where they would find ‘art’, that includes a pile of bricks, a framed canvas that has been torn and an art board painted black.

Conceptual art is almost 100 years old, in 1917 Marcel Duchamp submitted a signed urinal for inclusion in an art show in New York. Duchamp did not create the urinal, he just signed it, and how much effort did Carl Andre’ actually put into stacking those bricks? and would anyone notice if I snuck in another row? If I swapped some bricks out, would I diminish the piece?

So am I saying that art should take care, effort and skill? Well no, because a photograph can be taken in an instant, and surely photography is an art-form? I found my visit to the Tate Modern to be quite amusing. It seems to me that you could take almost any household item and pass it off as ‘modern art’, so long as you can construct a facetious blurb to go with it.

Here’s an example, I’d snap a mop into two pieces and place a stained pink dress next to it. Here is my blurb:

Here we find a piece that conveys the liberation of women from the traditional gender role. The pink dress on the floor displays the androcentrism of the modern woman. Hopefully this piece will cause the viewer to confront the confirmation bias associated with the mop and dress.

I snapped this cool graffiti in a subway. I think that it’s much better than most of the  ‘art’ in The Tate Modern. Is my photograph of this art art in of itself?

I don’t pretend to know what makes something ‘art’. Maybe it’s how much someone is prepared to pay for it? Damien Hurst could slice a donkey in half and pickle it, some flounce would then deem it to be worth a fortune. Now, if I were to do that, nobody would be interested – beyond my immediate friends and family who would think that I’d gone quite mad.

Wikipedia states that ‘according to Tolstoy, art must create a specific emotional link between artist and audience, one that “affects” the viewer.’ To that end, conceptual art qualifies because it makes me feel amused, maybe angry/jealous (that the artist has made so much money, from so little effort) and frankly baffled that so many people would go to see it. As to what makes art good or bad, I guess that’s subjective to the individual and the passage of time. Vincent Van Gogh’s work received little to no recognition during his lifetime. His paintings were often described as being too dark and lacking the bright liveliness seen in Impressionist paintings of the time. Maybe the same will be true of the conceptual art in The Tate.

Vincent Van Gogh


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