UK

Stupid Art

Manchester's B of the bang sculpture was commissioned by the public

Manchester's B of the bang sculpture was commissioned by the public

So, Jonathan Jones (UK Guardian art critic): the public shouldn’t be trusted to choose their art? He argued on a panel at the Big Art Debate at the Royal Society of Arts in London, that:

public art is never going to be great art so long as it has to conform to the prejudices, enthusiasms and assumptions of the majority.

Meaning: who cares what the public thinks, they are too stupid to “get” the art anyway. Bah with them! Let’s salute disturbing/aggressive/ politically motivated/vulgar/profane art because it’s a free society.

Bear with me as I write this next paragraph. It pains me, but I guess I should give the other side a fair shake:

While I appreciate art that pushes the limits, not everyone wants to see sculpture that might be aggressive/politically motivated/etc. in the middle of rush hour on their way to work. In public spaces, art is often an afterthought, a piece on the periphery, “that big blobby thing” that people walk by day in, day out and have never really stopped to look at (and how much of my paycheck taxes did the govt. spend on THAT?). People who want to be challenged by art want to savor it when they feel like it, not on a day they are rushing in late for work. They like to look at it at lunch when they wander through the MOMA or on the weekend at a gallery opening. They like to look a it when they’ve set aside time to do it. Perhaps publicly chosen art, by design or genre, should work in its surroundings, and enhance the space pursuant to all the environmental/social/political factors around it. Or perhaps it should just be PRETTY. Not something that people have to think about or try to figure out — like what statement, exactly, is that piece of art trying to make? People want to look up at a , smile/grin/say “cool,” and move on.

OK, I’m done with the “other side.” Stop all this nonsense. I wouldn’t appreciate this art at all. I suppose pretty art has its purpose, but if the public can’t handle a little mind stretch now and then, then we’re in a sad state of society. And that’s too bad.

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Inserting Yourself in Art

Is there a better way to capture the essence of art than to insert yourself in it? This is exactly what Antony Gormley is trying to do with an empty plinth in Trafalgar Square. But do you think it will resonate more to the exhibitionists balancing on top of the monument or to the gawkers walking by?

Antony Gormley's One & Other

Antony Gormley’s fourth plinth commission is built around volunteers from the public. Photograph: PR

The fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square, London, was built in 1841 to carry an equestrian statue of King William IV but the money ran out. Since then there has been much discussion – and no agreement – about what to put permanently on top of it. The latest idea, from artist Antony Gormley, is to let 2,400 people stand on it for one hour each, 24 hours a day, for 100 days. “This elevation of everyday life to the position formerly occupied by monumental art allows us to reflect on the diversity, vulnerability and particularity of the individual in contemporary society. It could be tragic but it could also be funny,” Gormley says.