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Monday, 21 January, 2002, 12:53 GMT
Is concept art "craftless tat"?
Most conceptual art is "pretentious, self-indulgent, craftless tat", according to Ivan Massow, head of the Institute of Contemporary Arts.
Concept art is all hype and no substance, he said in an article for the New Statesman. His comments, however, have led former Turner Prize nominee Tracey Emin to call for his resignation.
She told the Daily Telegraph: "Massow should resign. I spent 12 years studying art, and up to 1,000 a day visited my last exhibition."
But the Stuckists, a group of artists who protest against what they see as the domination of conceptual art over more traditional art have leapt to Massow's defence.
This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Conceptual art, now a cliche nearly a century old, is being endlessly recycled by new generations too poorly educated to even realize how unoriginal their work even actually is. The work of young conceptual artists is about as new, "shocking" and transgressive as the Wright flyer and the horseless carriage. Recent Turner Prize winners prove that artists today are incapable of inventing new, relevant forms, only mindlessly repeating what little they know of art since Duchamp/Cage/Warhol.
The saddest part of discussing this nonsense (that is passed off as art) is that no publicity is given to modern artists with real talent!
To me art is something someone wants to look at.
An unmade bed I can see every day in my children's' room; however I do not want to look at it and feel compelled to make it.
However we have many pictures and statues, both traditional and modern. These I enjoy looking at even when I have to dust them.
As for dead animals, these are useful for teaching the children biology. However I can see no difference between an animal being killed to be displayed as art or one being killed for a fur coat.
A. Wood, UK
Conceptual art was clever and fresh in 1917, when Marcel Duchamp presented his urinal; hopefully some day soon our sense of irony will finally be satisfied.
Conceptual Art seems to take the form of a visual joke with a punch line. The problem is once the joke is heard and a wry smile extracted, the "Art" is left with no merit. It is either visually offensive or dull, and cannot be appreciated as the work of a skilled artist. Conceptual art has a very short shelf life (whatever happened to the famous Brick the Tate once displayed?), and seems to be the nonsensical output of arts graduates unable to find a proper job. I can't blame them for trying to make a living, but who are the boneheads who pay to see this stuff? I'd love to see a video showing the faces of a procession of chinless wonders gawping at conceptual art. The initial confusion, quickly followed by the "Ah, I get it" and then the listless wait staring at it, so they don't move on too quickly and look foolish.
"I spent 12 years studying art, and up to 1,000 a day visited my last exhibition" does not explain why conceptual art is not "pretentious, self-indulgent, craftless tat".
Twelve years studying art should at least impart a decent ability to respond to criticism.
Alex (England) - if conceptual art really is something that anyone could do, requiring no talent, and if successful conceptual artists are making large amounts of money from doing things that anyone could do, why don't you do it too?
If art, of any type, sparks debate and discussion it has succeeded its most important function.
It's not my cup of tea, but let's be fair - even the Sistine Chapel started out as a "concept."
Jonathan Michaud, US/UK
Someone who spouts rubbish to sell sub-standard goods is usually called a con-artist.
Not having an original thought on the subject, but from a note I carry in my wallet: "Skill without imagination is craftsmanship, and gives us many useful objects such as wickerwork picnic baskets. Imagination without skill gives us modern art."(unattributed).
Long live conceptual art, I say! After hours of touring round galleries, having my mind and my senses blown away by the sheer emotion stimulated in me by many of the pictures or sculptures I've seen (modern and ancient), conceptual art is a comic relief at the end of the day. It's like the froth at the top of a 'real art' cappuccino, and a means of desensitising the emotions after viewing real art.
I'd suggest every major museum tacks a conceptual art section right at the exit - I guarantee it would be a success!
If Tracey Emin spent twelve years studying art and all she could come up with for a Turner Prize nomination was an unmade bed, then she's wasted her time! It takes me a maximum of about five seconds to create that look in the morning!
I'm thinking of buying a new masterpiece known as "new sofa", but will need to sell the existing artwork I own called "old grubby sofa in living room" (flashing light optional).
Any takers? A snip at four grand.
It's about time someone said those things out loud. In my mind it all started with that submarine made out of tyres.
Well, if Tracey Emin spent 12 years studying art, all I can say is, what the hell are they teaching them there! But isn't it nice to know that when you go home tonight and look at the housework you haven't got round to, the unmade beds, the lights you haven't bothered to fix, that in fact you have your very own masterpiece to gaze at? My kitchen is currently £20,000 worth of art. And what's more, it's interactive art, because I can add more unwashed dishes to it whenever I choose!
Finally someone has pointed out that the emperor has no clothes on. The tailors may be protesting but we all know it's true.
If these 'artists' can make money - good luck to them. Provided always that it does not cost me - a tax payer, or me - a lottery ticket buyer, one penny, I do not care. Whilst the people who spend their money on such trash are daft, the 'artists' are anything but daft.
I couldn't agree more. Art from the preceding centuries has endured many changes to what is classed as art. I cannot see Tracey Emins 'art' being bid for in years to come for millions of pounds. They are certainly no Caravaggio or Michaelangelo. Just like the popular music scene of the last few years, it is shallow, over-hyped rubbish (often quite literally).
I myself am not a big lover of conceptual art, but what it has managed to achieve, this forum being a perfect example, is that it makes everybody question what art is. This in itself may just be a natural and maybe even unavoidable progression/reformation in art, maybe from this artistic void a new form of art will emerge, one that we can all truly agree is art.
I find the whole conceptual art idea has the "conspiracy theorist" argument applied to it. These artists create something and then ask us to "prove it isn't art" - instead of the other way around. It's a no-win situation because if I argue it isn't art, they'll tell me I just haven't got it.
Art is meant to be interpretative, and expression comes in many forms and I'm not close-minded, but I do feel artistic works such as the blinking lights are mired in pretension, and the real shame is that those with a genuine artistic talent struggle to get themselves established because of a small-minded modern art establishment.
The half-eaten sandwich on my desk isn't my lunch, it's a work of art. Prove I'm wrong. (That'll be £10,000 please.)
As usual "The Simpsons" has said it all. At the risk of being branded an anorak I refer you to the episode AABF15 "Mom and Pop Art" where Homer's disastrous attempt to build a barbeque pit lands him with his own art exhibition (briefly).
As Kenny Rogers once sang "They don't make 'em like they used to".
If the work of Tracey Emin & Co is art then what in the world is 'not' art. Surely the whole point of gaining a prize like the Turner is that the winner has managed to achieve something that the average person cannot do. I couldn't possibly sculpt or paint the Sistine Chapel but I could certainly show off an unmade bed or a room with the lights on. If the Turner prize is awarded for guts then yes these people deserve to win for pretending to be artists.BR> Mark, England
A colleague and myself constantly debate this, with me being accused of being a Stuckist. However, my view is that the Turner Prize committee constantly make the winning award for entries for which they know will maximise controversy, and not for any artistic merit.
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