pretentious, self-indulgent, craftless tat.
January 17, 2002 7:49 AM   Subscribe

pretentious, self-indulgent, craftless tat. Modern art is rubbish says Institute of Contemporary Arts Chief Ivan Massow...
posted by Spoon (28 comments total)
Ivan Massow ... [claims] that most conceptual art is "pretentious, self-indulgent, craftless tat".

Conceptual art, which is also known as Minimalist art, is only one individual movement that makes up Modern art. Knowing this, Ivan Massow is not saying that all Modern art is rubbish, but just the conceptual variety is.

If you want a recent example of Conceptual art, this past year a Conceptual work of art received the Turner prize. This work consisted of nothing more than an empty room in which the lights flickered on and off every 5 seconds.
posted by crog at 8:07 AM on January 17, 2002

He obviously hasn't seen this then. Modern high art at its finest.
posted by TiggleTaggleTiger at 8:12 AM on January 17, 2002

Link to the standard, screen-ready version

Is this a really poorly written article, or have I not had enough coffee? From what I could gather, Massow has had a revelation that Conceptual Art sucks. What I don't get it is:

A. How did he get to be ICA chairman?
B. Is he just lashing out at his own organization?
C. Isn't the issue here really more about ICA politics than about art?
D. When referring to a donkey, do the English use the word "ass" or "arse"? (I suspect the former.)
posted by jpoulos at 8:13 AM on January 17, 2002

Modern art is crap: this is not a newsflash. But it's good that someone with some clout is saying so. I'd hate to see us go back to the utter shite that characterized so much 19th and early 20th century art, though.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:20 AM on January 17, 2002

I'll take a walk through a Damien Hirst exhibit over a gallery of 18th-century portraiture anyday.
posted by MrBaliHai at 8:29 AM on January 17, 2002

I had a friend who went through Carnegie Mellon's (sp?) Fine Arts program and who, upon graduation, threw out all her painting supplies. She said that the people who got the best grades were simply those who came up with the best 'explanations' for their paintings, no matter what they were. As she was a more 'intuitive' artist, her pieces really spoke for themselves (and were really good - no bias here! LOL), but because she didn't 'explain' them they didn't make her anyone's darling. Now - everyone has their own opinions about what is art and what is crap - having said that, here's mine.. When you buy into the 'explanation' or 'statement' that a piece is SUPPOSED to be making rather than how a piece really touches (or does not touch) you, that's when IT SEEMS you get an 'art scene' that's a step away from 'art', and that tends to promote a more ego-based agenda or social circle instead of 'art'. Of course, if those doing the deciding aren't in touch with what really moves them in the first place... well... anyway... (Hmm - do I have enough qualifiers and quotation marks in the above paragraph? *grin* Maybe one more - all IMO, which changes frequently.)
posted by thunder at 8:35 AM on January 17, 2002

jpoulos: you sit on an arse, you ride an ass. clear?
posted by Spoon at 8:39 AM on January 17, 2002

most conceptual art is "pretentious, self-indulgent, craftless tat".

Oh, how ballsy. You could take out "conceptual" and still have a whopper of a nonstatement designed purely to alternately inflame the supposed highbrows and humor the supposed lowbrows.

He says that by uttering the "unthinkable" about contemporary art he hoped to free young artists from the yoke of "totalitarian official art"

O how unthinkable! O transgressor! You risk the ire of the gods!

What a bunch of self-important bullshit. Contrary to the usual Cassandras, young artists and the great unwashed alike can take care of themselves.
posted by Skot at 8:59 AM on January 17, 2002

Among the best artists working today, such distinctions between different kinds of skills, or between tradition and novelty are irrelevant. Just remember that originality is rare, profundity even rarer.

I think this holds true for most artists not just the best artists.

In my opinion the artists who consider themselves more with the work than the praise or rock stardom aspects will be the ones who will never make as much impact on the current art scene as the ones that clamor for it and allow that aspect to define the work. In effect they work to create attention, but most artists want some sort of public approval, whether monetary or intellectual, I feel that both will exist indefinetly.

Oh, and to the earlier reference to Thomas Kinkade in bitteroldpunk's post, I think that sh*t is nowhere near as strong a description for it, there is clearly something vile and subhuman about his work, I really can't even begin to describe my feelings for that... ?@#**?
posted by bittennails at 8:59 AM on January 17, 2002

what's wrong with conceptual art?

personally, if i must stretch to invent symbolism, expression and depth that i see in your artwork, i feel you have failed as an artist. but i can accept that there are those who feel otherwise, both artists and patrons; as long as their work sells, i suppose the artists shall continue. hasn't a similar structure existed, for all arts regardless of quality or genre, for centuries?
posted by moz at 9:09 AM on January 17, 2002

You have to give Kinkade props, though, for taking Warhol's ideas and applying them to horrifyingly consumerist, souless, cookie-cutter hang-over-the-sofa paintings of Hallmark-card quality.

Oh, wait. No you don't.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:15 AM on January 17, 2002


Patronage has always been a tricky business for artists. 99% of the purchasers of art in centuries past demanded cliches and conventionality from the artist. What feels different about the current art world is the stock market feel of it: Artists are hoping to hit the jackpot by becoming favored momentarily by the art world; the buyers are eager to find out who's the Next Big Thing so they can have some valuable pieces. It's more like baseball cards or Beanie Babies than any semblance of an artist/audience relationship.

I think it's fair to say that the tastemakers more often pick their favored artists by political allegiance (both personal and ideological politics) than they do by what they imagine as an appeal to some standards of quality. Because standards are all constructs of hegemonic systems anyway -- haven't you read any Derrida?

It's all quite nauseating.
posted by argybarg at 9:41 AM on January 17, 2002

of course it's crap. everything new is crap. give it another five or ten years, and the art that is crap now will magically become good.
posted by mcsweetie at 9:54 AM on January 17, 2002

pretentious, self-indulgent, craftless tat.

New tag line? Damn, I am on a roll. Not a great one, but a roll nonetheless.
posted by adampsyche at 10:14 AM on January 17, 2002

the art that is crap now will magically become good.

Pardon me for disagreeing, mcsweetie, but (to pick a random example) the poetry of Joyce Kilmer has had time to mellow and as far as I can tell, it STILL sucks.

The art that stands the test of time is art that: 1) tells us something about the context in which it was made, and is thus of historical rather than aesthetic significance; or 2) expresses ideas that transcend historicity and culture, expressing something TRUE about the universal human condition. Thus Picasso's Guernica will stand the test of time, even if most viewers are unfamiliar with the specific circumstances that inspired the work.

Most of the po-mo horsepuckey art discussed in this thread is CLEVER rather than intelligent, situated in a rarified semiotic space that has ZERO relevance to the real world (because it's all about artists talking to artists about artists talking about art, a bunch of recursive tail-chasing).
It's ephemera passing itself off as culturally significant art.

And it's not just "everthing new" that's crap -- 90% of everything is crap.

(riding high horse off into a highly irrelevant sunset)
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:28 AM on January 17, 2002

wow. you're right, BOP: kilmer isn't so good.
reading roofs felt like i was reading the following:

i wish i were robert frost
i wish i were robert frost
but my meter is odd
and my thoughts pretentious.

and, also! life is a highway managed to sneak into the poem. that's icky, though maybe it's not kilmer's fault there was a song using that as a lyric. (which came first: kilmer or the song?) i suppose my poetry and/or prose couldn't do much better on the whole, however.
posted by moz at 10:56 AM on January 17, 2002

Kilmer came first. He's the guy that penned the immortal words, "I think that I shall never see/a sight as lovely as a tree", thus setting the bar high for bad poets everywhere.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:00 AM on January 17, 2002

Conceptual art is not the same as Minimalism. They have nothing to do with one another. And for a different take on the subject, check out this Times article that discusses how Minimalism has become the new language of public monuments: "...the closest modern art has come to an alternative to the heroic public sculptural ambition of Michelangelo or Bernini." Think of the Vietnam memorial.
posted by lbergstr at 11:49 AM on January 17, 2002

Listen folks, MetaFilter -- this instrument upon which we are all playing at this moment -- is one of the greatest works of conceptual art of all time. This stinkin' blog, is one of the most unique works of art/communication/expression in the history of the world. Its creation and success would have been entirely beyond the imagination any of the peanut-brained artists infesting the fine arts today. THIS is art! THIS is genius. THIS is avant garde!
posted by Faze at 12:04 PM on January 17, 2002

suck up.
posted by crunchland at 12:10 PM on January 17, 2002

We've had a discussion in the past on conceptual art being garbage or not. The High-Brows said no, the Janitor said yes...yes...yes...
posted by hellinskira at 12:38 PM on January 17, 2002

tat \Tat\, n. [Hind. tatt?.] (Zo["o]l.) A pony. [India]

posted by modofo at 1:35 PM on January 17, 2002

Tattu, spelled phonetically, is the hindi word for a pony.
Tatti, spelled phonetically, is the hindi word for sh*t.
posted by bittennails at 2:15 PM on January 17, 2002

Rich old people will buy and praise Tracey's shite then call it "art" because they want its value to go up.

Sad, pretentious young art students will agree that Tracey's shite is "art", because they are young art students and want to shock their patrons.

The rest of us can just ignore them both and buy stuff that looks nice, and fuck their sad pretentions. No theories necessary, just taste.

Apply the above to fashion and you will start to acquire style.
posted by godidog at 5:40 PM on January 17, 2002

And, of course, conceptual art is the world's best practical joke, played by DuChamp.
posted by Ptrin at 6:03 PM on January 17, 2002

BBC article about the ICA chairma: Massow has been waging bitter trench warfare with what he calls the "loony right" for some time, damning their attitudes in his articles for The Daily Telegraph and The Spectator.
posted by Carol Anne at 6:30 PM on January 17, 2002

Massow has also recently relaunched his company after its previous incarnation went broke and wants to do all he can to get his name in the press to try and boost its prospects...
posted by kerplunk at 5:49 AM on January 21, 2002

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