Public prefers classic art over contemporary moronities

But we knew that already, no? That is why arty-sharty culture-vultures like to believe that what they peddle is 'high art'. That they have some kind of superior sensibility that allows them to perceive and grasp and savor the ineffable sublimity inherent in a pickled cow or an unmade bed.

They have to believe it. Their world and their inflated but fragile self-esteem depends on it. Otherwise all that is left to them is ugly, banal(not a contradiction),  mindless and worthless junk. And may I add - dreary, unsellable junk.

From the Mail Online-

We set up that simple test. We spent a day sitting in front of four classic paintings, and the works of four famous contemporary British artists.

We counted how many visitors stopped at each; for how long, on average, they spent looking at each work; what the longest examination was; and what sort of gallery visitor each work seemed to attract.

surprisingly, despite all the controversy, and the public promotion of new British artists, they did less well in this test than the 18th and 19th Century artists.

Yup, life is short. Who wants to waste a desultory second on this-

Damien Hirst's pickled cow

or on this-

Untitled (Black Bath) by Rachel Whiteread, 1996 

when there is this stunning magnificence-

Ophelia by John Everett Millais

and this utterly endearing charm to enrich your soul -

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose by John Singer Sargent


The people we were observing were certainly keen on the visual arts. Nevertheless, it seemed as if they were not interested in, or open to the work of, some of our best-known contemporary artists.

Perhaps surprisingly, it was the familiar and traditional paintings that people devoted most of their time and attention to.

It's clear why people spent more than two minutes on average in front of William Hogarth's The Roast Beef Of Old England. It's a complicated painting, with lots of small incidents and stories bursting out, 12 major figures and a really funny joke about a dead fish; it's also painted with wonderful bravura.

Obviously, no one is going to understand it without spending a few minutes going over its details.
The same might be true about Sir John Everett Millais's Ophelia, which was easily the most popular work when we visited.

Three visitors spent as much as half an hour looking at this marvellous painting - try spending three minutes looking at a single image to realise how long that is.

It's a very rich painting, deliberately specific in its botanical details surrounding the drowning Ophelia, as well as a beautifully direct one.

On the whole, though, wherever we watched, visitors seemed more willing to devote between two and six minutes to the classic works, whether they be Whistler's translucent Thames study Nocturne: Blue And Silver or Sargent's Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, which, a generation ago, was the most popular postcard sold by the Tate's shop. Why should this be?

Yes, why?

It might be that contemporary artists strive to make an impact rather than provide a complex emotional experience. It is shocking to see a dead sheep in an art gallery, but it's not something to go on looking at for half an hour.

And it may be that there is not much else they know or can do. They are a one-trick pony and it's not a very endearing trick at that.

Read it all here.


Anonymous said…
Since when is gorgeous home decor a waste of time? Given the choice of having the paintings or the bath in my home I'll take the bath. The paintings are well done, no doubt, but I find them uninteresting and dull compared to a lot of classic painting. I get most of your arguments, but insulting practical arts like usable stone work seem contrary to your message to me.

That's okay some of your own paintings are suspiciously close to contemporary work anyway with your seeming preference of abstract subject matter. Doubly so with the "my weird art is art but your weird art isn't" attitude. A least a bath is something everyone can appreciate.
Terence Kelly Fine Art said…
A dead calf is a dead calf and a bath (this one is pretty ugly, by the way) is just that – a bath. The paintings on the other hand are Art and in my opinion there should be more Art in public galleries and less junk. Anonymous comments that given the choice of having the paintings or the bath he or she would take the bath. I thought every modern home had at least one bath already fitted. Let me put it another way, you are walking past a skip one day and see Rachel Whiteread’s black bath and Millais’s painting of Ophelia laying next to one another. Which one would you take home? Or put another way, which one looks more at home in the skip? Anonymous also comments that the author of the blog should not insult practical arts like usable stone work. The monstrosity referred to again is the ugly stone, “Black Bath” that looks like something from a Victorian lunatic asylum and must weigh a ton. I might be wrong but is that practical? It goes without saying you could use it but who in their right mind would want to? It is because of people like Anonymous that the majority of the public, whose money buys these so-called “works of art” have to endure in their public art galleries all manner of junk under the guise of contemporary art. Art should not need to have a long and boring explanation written next to it to explain why the author of the work created it in the first place and what it is. It really is about time we, the public, who buy all this junk and have no real say in the matter, should speak with one voice and tell the Emperor, once and for all, that he is wearing no clothes.