‘leaving  judgment, intellect, and common sense at the door and instead fitting in with the vacuous as they glorify the vacant’.


Image courtesy of Damien Cugley via flickr.com ©©

I am a reporter and therefore, by definition, a mouthy vainglorious know-nothing who shouldn’t even try to define art.   But here goes. True art brings out the best in those who experience it. Bogus art brings out the worst.

Hop along to the Hayward Gallery in London at the moment and see what I mean.

They are staging an exhibition of Invisible Art. That’s right. There’s nothing to see. And that will be £8, please.

That’s not quite true. There are empty canvases, supposedly “primed by brain waves”, painted with invisible ink or, somehow, made a minor masterpiece by an artist staring at it for 5 years.

There’s a movie shot by another artist with no film in his camera. A pillar Andy Warhol once stood near, thereby investing it with his “celebrity aura”. And, hit of the show, an empty plinth bearing only a sphere of space apparently cursed by a witch – a personage who, in this company, rates as a paragon of sensible rationality.

The art world is hugging itself for its daring. The critics have been almost unanimous in their applause, drenching this idiocy in enough hyperbolic drivel to keep Pseuds Corner going for decades.

Nothing, you understand, “sets our imaginations alight”. Nothing to see “makes us look harder”, is a “profound allegory of our times”..but only, of course, if you are as sensitive as the Independent’s critic and are “willing to engage in a mental dance with the artist”.

We don’t want to seem insensitive. We want to be regarded as thoughtful; to have complex feelings and reactions we can project onto this brilliantly conceived nothingness.  We do irony, we certainly do, and the back stop, bottom line, the con artists’s coup de grace, we get the joke. ..or, as the Guardian puts it, the “seriously brilliant jest ..which makes it unexpectedly profound”.

No, we would rather leave our judgement, our intellect, our common sense and any true artistic sensibility we may have at the door and fit in with the vacuous as they glorify the vacant. The emperors of conceptual art may have no clothes but can still trouser fortunes.

A pile of dog droppings, accidentally stepped in, is thought provoking by these standards, a witty metaphor of modern man, an exegesis for our times. Art, though, it is not.

Which just shows what a Phillistine I am. I had never even heard of Piero Manzoni whose short, but feverishly creative life was crowned with one of the masterpieces of conceptual art. Brilliantly, he canned his own excrement – 90 tins, labeled “artists’s shit”- and said they were worth their weight in gold. They’re worth considerably more, as it happens. The Tate paid $61,000 dollars for tin number 4 and reckoned it a bargain. The last two to change hands did so for 124,000 Euros and £97,250 respectively.  There’s been a lot of –forgive me – bullshit about how his canned turds “tap mythological sources to realize authentic and universal values”.

If they’d said the spirit of every age is reflected in the art that it values, they might have had a point.

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