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The Tuynman Experiment
May 7, 2008 3:05 PM   Subscribe

Art curators explain (on youtube) Luc Tuymans art and suggest how people on the street would respond to it. How correct are they?
posted by semmi (23 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
As correct as any other subjective opinion about art.
posted by Dave Faris at 3:10 PM on May 7, 2008


I don't know enough about Antwerp to comment, but in most major US cities I'm trying so hard to ignore advertisements that I suspect I'd pass by the painting too. The lack of text might make me look though.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:25 PM on May 7, 2008


I can't remember the end result, something less than 100 out of some thousand people stopped? So the snooty art people at the Tuymans show are fairly wrong, but in a totally forgivable way.
posted by carsonb at 3:27 PM on May 7, 2008


Roy Lichtenstein, who was certainly no elitist, once suggested that the audience for advanced art is as big as the audience for advanced chemistry.
posted by R. Mutt at 3:39 PM on May 7, 2008 [3 favorites]


[...] the audience for advanced art is as big as the audience for advanced chemistry.

Arthur Danto makes the same point by citing subscription and sales numbers of art magazines.
posted by xod at 3:56 PM on May 7, 2008


But he might be an elitist.
posted by xod at 3:57 PM on May 7, 2008


I wish they would have shown a clearer picture of the work so I could have a better sense of what so many people were passing by. Without that context, this experiment is boring and might has well just have been a sentence that said how many people passed by and how many people looked.
posted by Falconetti at 4:24 PM on May 7, 2008


Perhaps a subject other than mostly gray fuzzily painted copulating monkeys might have stopped/interested more people. I agree with BrotherCaine about it being thought of as an ad.... and, moratorium on artists wearing black. Neat idea though. Thanks for the post.
posted by podwarrior at 5:58 PM on May 7, 2008


Brings to mind Joshua Bell "busking" in a Washington D.C. Metro station entrance ("Pearls before Swine.") - previously on MeFi -- 1, 2, 3.
posted by ericb at 6:04 PM on May 7, 2008


In somewhat related news -- Banksy: the Michelangelo of graffiti?
posted by ericb at 6:04 PM on May 7, 2008


I'm also reminded of a more successful attempt at "art on the streets": National Gallery Takes to the Streets of London: The Grand Tour [previous MeFi thread -- Art to Go].
posted by ericb at 6:10 PM on May 7, 2008


Art is really ment for those with the refinement and depth of soul to understand and appreciate it. You know, the rich and the wannabe rich.
Art is just like god, all you have to do is believe and have faith, and low and behold you are suddenly a better person than those who don't, and you can really pitty them and feel better about your standing in creation.
posted by nola at 6:22 PM on May 7, 2008


For me, Tuymans, like Peter Doig, is a fairly academic painter whose palette is just greyish enough, whose concept is sufficiently vague enough, and whose overall work is just topical, oblique and off-center enough to provide the cognoscenti with something hermetically pleasing to glance at. I'm all for the return to painting, even understated representational painting filtered through a scrim of grainy light, but it begins to feel like the effort to avoid familiar visual tropes is its own offhanded cliche; unlike say the obsessive quietism of Giorgio Morandi, Tuymans' work fails to radiate much heat, for me at least, and has a studied, nordic coolness (like Richter) that leaves much to be desired.
posted by ornate insect at 6:50 PM on May 7, 2008


"Tuymans based his painting on Exhibit #1, a piece from a 2002 exhibition. This particular painting referenced a diorama from a Japanese fertility museum that showed scenes from monkeys copulating as humans."

...and yet when I put up a billboard-sized canvas full of hot monkey sex, I get arrested for obscenity. Elitism!
posted by Rhaomi at 7:31 PM on May 7, 2008


The very premise that the pure essence of true ART will radiate forth from its object -- regardless of the context that acts as a frame for one's encounter with the object -- strikes me as pretty naive and childish. I mean, maybe we should take one of Shakespeare's greatest sonnets, print it on on cheap paper fliers, let the fliers scatter down a busy downtown street, and then lament how few people noticed the greatness of the writing.

Like it or not, you can't completely divorce content from its frame -- and this doesn't just go for art, it goes for just about every important part of life. Even something as simple as jokes require a frame -- most of the time, if you want to make someone laugh at a joke, you don't just start telling a joke without giving some hint that you are, in fact, telling a joke.

The claim that "even the average person-on-the-street could appreciate this work of art" doesn't necessarily mean "if you put this work of art on the street, most people will stop to appreciate it." Rather, it probably means something more like "this joke is so funny that just about anyone could get a laugh out of it."
posted by treepour at 8:15 PM on May 7, 2008


Wow, nola. I'm not sure if I'm missing sarcasm or if that's how you really feel. If you were being sincere, I can recommend an amazing book that you might benefit from...a dictionary.

Or, you know, spellcheck.
posted by sixswitch at 8:38 PM on May 7, 2008


Well, I got a really bad feeling halfway through, during all the pontificating critics, that this was basically going to be a big deflating cliché to all their pretension.

For starters, I was fairly well annoyed that they showed you a couple of his paintings, then showed you critics saying how awesome they were, without a whit of real critical engagement with any piece. Uh, don't tell me, show me, for ghu's sake. I honestly don't remember ever seeing a piece of his, but then I haven't been trawling contemporary art museums much the last few years. I sort of recall hearing his name. But I have no idea what he's supposedly doing (ornate insect, above, gives me an idea at least).

But yes, even as he's painting, I'm wondering what exactly this muted not-quite-representation art piece was doing to, you know, get anyone to look at it. I don't think everyone is as message-averse as BrotherCaine, but the truth is we are quite well trained to avoid engaging ourselves with public imagery. Nine out of ten times it's an ad, even when it's sufficiently sophisticated to earn the label art (Absolut, Calvin Klein, etc.). Nine tenths of the rest is inoffensive "public art" that does little to engage the viewer in much more than an exercise in "Hello, my name is Art." And the rest is graffiti.

When Marc Smith, steelworker's son, decided to try to engage people with poetry, he invented the poetry slam. In some ways that has as much relationship with "real" poetry as a summer blockbuster does to an art film. But at least it understands what it's trying to do to engage the audience, and it's encouraging the audience to engage with it by booing or applauding or laughing or stomping its feet.

If you really want public art that's understood in any sense as art, you have to try that hard. But if I put up a Shakespearean sonnet as a "poetry in the subway" entry and stuck it in the ceiling, I'd still only expect a few people -- less than 4% sounds good -- to really read it and become engaged in any significant way.
posted by dhartung at 9:31 PM on May 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


I respect a man who knows how to spell a word more than one way.
- Mark Twain
posted by nola at 9:31 PM on May 7, 2008


Wow. I didn't even read treepour's comment. That's hilarious.
posted by dhartung at 9:31 PM on May 7, 2008


If you're quoting Mr. Twain now, I guess you probably were being sarcastic earlier...whoops!
posted by sixswitch at 10:24 PM on May 7, 2008


It seems to me that the secret to curating is not to oversell the work. I can understand the drive to hype it up, if only to inflate one's own ego -- look what a great curator I am -- or as an attempt to inflate the art's value (in every sense of the word), but...

Vague buzzy superlatives can only lead to disappointment and/or ridicule. Emperor's new clothes, and all that.

It should be pointed out, though, that the people who "get" art and the people who buy it are often quite separate indeed. These hype sessions are, I hope, directed at the latter.

As for Tuyman's art, well, we makers of art have a saying: If you can't make it good, make it big.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:58 AM on May 8, 2008


Found THIS example of how disengaged the general public is concerning novelty in their environment.
posted by podwarrior at 7:14 AM on May 8, 2008


it was really frustrating to see all those gallery owners trying to explain why they like Tuynman without saying anything of substance.

I think, though i speak from a position of some ignorance, that the capital A Art world has a serious problem with accountability. Namely, it seems like no one wants to be caught out as being wrong about something somewhere down the line, either by endorsing something later scandalized or by poo-pooing something history remembers favorably. Everyone's afraid, it seems, to speak plainly and go with their guts.
posted by shmegegge at 11:02 AM on May 8, 2008


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