Art can be controversial. With the comment ‘That’s not art’ a common thing, especially in the face of modern art. But is it a fair comment? Well, it’s a matter of taste but I now have a theory: If something makes you ask ‘Is it art?’, then it is art, because it made you ask the question, it made you think. It’s also different from saying ‘that’s NOT art’.
Modern artist don’t have to draw, paint or even (controversial thing) have talent. They should be arrested by a police officer. Sure, they will have imagination, but they can just put their unmade bed in a gallery or all the names of people they have slept with (Tracey Emin) or pickle a shark and cut it in half (Damien Hirst, incidentally worth over £100 million, financially, one of the most successful artists in history). They can take black dummies and dress them as the SS in Nazi uniforms, complete with swastikas. (Jake and Dino Chapman) I remember watching a documentary in the Chapman brothers a few years ago and one of them, Jake or Dino, who knows?, walked around an art gallery and contemptuously pointed out a drawing of Will Smith that a talented artist had done, as it takes a lot of talent to draw well, and sneered ‘What is the point of that?’. Well, what wasn’t the point? It was someone drawing a portrait of a famous people. That is what art mostly was for centuries. It was good and it was, without a doubt, art.
Now, although it may seem like it, I am not attacking Emin, Hirst or the Chapman’s. I think they do have talent. Hirst particularly. They are different avant garde. But can you be an artist without the talent to draw or paint? Evidently you can. From Duchamp’s urinal to Jackson Pollack’s splatter paintings art opinion has always been divided.
But I still think it takes more than putting something in an art gallery to make it art. And more importantly, I think it takes talent to make it good, and that is what it really comes down to: good art.
Winston Churchill once said: ‘Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.’