Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Intelligent Art

"The election of Tracey Emin to join the Royal Academy of the Arts as a Royal Academician alongside more traditionally academic artists such as David Hockney, Peter Blake, and Anthony Caro" raised a question, unspoken though it was: "Is she enough of an intellectual to join the RA?" Ana Finel Honigman matches it with another: "Why is this even an issue?" The Guardian (UK) 04/10/07

Click here to read the entire article.

The above article, when read in full, classifies “intellectual” in a purely classical sense. I don’t believe it is that simple. On one hand I agree that art cannot be measured by purely traditional academic standards then again, I take umbrage with the title of the journalist’s by-line: “Intelligent Art is a Foolish Concept”.

We recognize the difference between literature and recreational reading; art films and the latest Die Hard incarnation. Why is fine art any more difficult to differentiate? Is it really that surprising when we run across a “mall” gallery, wedged between the Gap and Old Navy, boasting their collection of priceless Kincade or Jesse Barnes prints? While Tracy Emin is hardly of the low-brow caliber of these charlatans, I have to wonder if the author isn’t undermining the art and artists she wants to defend. Here are some comments, from readers of her post, that I feel sum-up my impression of this subject very nicely:

  • There's a difference between an intellectual and someone who's intelligent. Artist's use materials and their handling of that denotes whether they are intelligent - is the work economic or fussy ? are the right materials used in the right places? etc. etc. They don't need to be intellectual to do that do they? Jackson Pollock was by all accounts a bit of a drunken brute but his handling of paint was fantastically intelligent.
  • Or maybe artists should do us and other artists a favour and stop thinking it's clever to hide their intelligence.

While I’m sure the author would never think twice about considering the standard American “mall artist” prints in her assessment of an art form or category; I believe we tread a dangerous path when the glorification of ignorance becomes precedent. Much like the concept of whom decides what is good; in this case who decides what is too intelligent to be “fun”? – DN

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