A Subjective View on Contemporary Art: What Makes Bad Art? Today, many of us are desensitized to fine arts due to a few artists who have emerged since the 20th century who we call controversial, genius, perverted or psychotic. Contemporary art – though difficult to classify to a specific time and central movement – collectively is much more socially conscious than any other previous artistic era. The genre of fine arts has been widening exponentially over the past century, and a few artists have reached down to the nauseating ends of it.
They create works that are intensely disgusting and confusing in order to gain an easy way out to get a spotlight from the media. This is because revolting is eye-catching; artists have realized and utilized this strategy in order to seek attention. Recurring disturbances caused by the use of vulgar material and method of expression numbs our appreciation towards contemporary art. The stereotype of the incomprehensibility of modern art is implanted in our minds by this traumatizing grotesqueness. Artists who use art merely as a tool to make money are the main cause of the downfall of appreciable fine art of the 21st century.
In the modern world, in order to easily make a controversial work of art, the grotesque seems to be shown. Artists of disputable manner aim to get their names out in the world through whatever it takes- in many cases, unpleasantly. Tracy Emin, a British artist, gained her fame from her award winning installation called My Bed, frankly displaying her sexual life. The installation consists of her own unmade, dirty bed with bloodstained underwear and used condoms. Sure, it is both visually and conceptually striking and straightforward.
However, the perception heavily depends on whether the viewer is artistically intellectual or not. For most cases, such works merely leave viewers shaken even after leaving the museum. Unsightliness, however, does not make up for lack of intellectual stimulation. Even the emotional stimulation offered is superficial. It is used purely to create a shock effect, with no meaning – if the image shocks your stomach, it should do the same thing to your mind. The main reason why many artists are partial to controversy is because a disputable work of art enthralls more dealers and media, which will ultimately brings them more money.
Furthermore, these stimulating appeals to the media will springboard their fame, which can bring them even more money. We live in a world where fame and aggrandized fakery can make a pack of pencils worth 10 million British pounds – a British teenager graffitist was fined this much for stealing a “rare” pack of Faber Castell Mongol 482 pencils from a British artist Damien Hirst’s installation called Pharmacy. I think today’s art world has become far too closely linked with the world of business. The bulk of the contemporary art being made today is made to be sold, and is gilded with fake and inflated significance.
Successful contemporary artists are the ones with good business skills. An artist cannot possibly get noticed by the public without having to run around and sell their art with embellished conceptual meaning. The world’s most renowned pop artist Andy Warhol noted, “making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art. ” There are artists who were millionaires before they even started their career- high on money, low on talent. They use their wealth and fame as a spur to get their name out in the art world quicker than any other artists, who may have had more skill and talent.
Again, Damien Hirst is a representative artist for making the most bizarre and grotesque art in the world, and the most lavish – 8,601 diamonds covering a human skull (For the Love of God) or animals floating in tanks filled with formaldehyde, could only be made by a loaded man like Hirst. Another question that arises from this excessive creation of ‘art’ is: did Damien Hirst himself make it? The answer for most of his works is, no. Even Hirst’s dreary, uninspiring, carnival-style spin paintings and realist paintings were merely done by his assistants.
However, buyers seem to completely disregard this fact. Why should a large, polka dotted painting, on which only 5 dots were painted by Hirst himself, be priced up to 2 million US dollars? The same goes for Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons and many other successful-rich artists. They barely participate in the making of their artworks; they have always needed paid assistants and craftsmen. Why should a simple addition of Andy Warhol’s signature on a silkscreen printed by the same craftsman differentiate the price by millions?
Why should a gigantically reproduced banal object like a balloon dog by Jeff Koons – be even considered great? Admittedly, the life of an artist is tough. For example, it is no longer financially feasible for realistic/traditional artists to attempt to compete with a camera. The same goes for sculptors, installation artists, video artists, and more; without budgetary support, most will face substantial limitation when wanting to express beyond their expedient reach. As such, they have had to make art more profitable. The nature of art is not in the hands of a few outlandish artists.
But the reality is unchangeable and artists too live within the boundary of reality. The reality is the general perception of money equals success or vice versa. Maybe that is why it was inevitable for artists to think this way – everything relates back to money in today’s world. Their method of creating art is now to find the easiest way to make money. One major source of income for artists is art collectors who buy their work. Some may say there are other sources of income for them to make living – but genuinely many artists are incapable of finding jobs in other industries today.
Thus, in order to sell more works and get more money, artists create work based upon collectors’ taste, not their personal styles. But should artists continue to produce art that art collectors are itching for? Contemporary art does not mimic life; it relies on abstraction instead. As an artist, I do believe that it is far more difficult to create an entirely new visual language than to recreate exactly what you see in front of you. Though, it is critical to be adept at recreating exactly what you see in front of you, because without reality, there would be no abstraction.
Therefore, I believe that before an artist starts playing with pretty colors and weird shapes that represent random things, they should have full knowledge of and ability to portray what the human eyes see each and every day. It is the initial purpose of the artists that matters. Sometimes, disturbing subject matter is necessary in order to give stronger and more literal impact to the viewers. Nevertheless, the fact remains that there is a great difference between purposeful art and poor art.
There is a huge disparity between an artist that has taken the time to develop technique, style, and understanding of art and an artist who believes he/she can be great without ever developing those aspects. Even naive artists have training and purpose behind what they do (Naive art is a classification of art that is often characterized by a childlike simplicity in its subject matter and technique). It makes me infuriated that this does not seem to matter to many modern art dealers. Modern fine arts should not be driven by money, and superficial shock effects should not be the one-shot solution to attracting fame.