Is "conceptual art" worth displaying?

I have a hard time with the entire room dedicated to a few bowls of colored powder. And sometimes a reviewer will go on and on how a piece is “challenging” or “daring” and it’s just a bunch of montage clippings like a child would make.

One museum had their proudest boasting over a sheet of plate glass 8’x8’ standing upright in a pile of ordinary sand.

Fine. Put it in your garden. Behind the garage. But why dedicate valuable exhibition space to it?

I hear ya. Several years ago I was watching TV and they showed a 10 minute special on some new up and coming artist. I STILL can’t believe it. He put handfulls of garbage in these 1 foot cubes of plexiglass. That was it. The little bastard made a fortune with this shit. Not sure what upsets me more, the fact that I didn’t think of selling banana peels and soda cans for thousands of dollars, or the fact that people actually bought garbage for thousands and took it home instead of tossing some trash in their aquarium. Don’t even get me started on the asshole that covered the room in melted cheese. My kids do that daily but I just can’t accept their artistic outlets.

One man’s art is another man’s pornography.

If you don’t like the quality of art that a gallery chooses to show, don’t patronize that gallery.

Freedom of choice is a wonderful thing…

Well said, Satan and very true. To me though, art, like music, involves talent and not marketing. If I stick a pane of glass in my yard, I’ll have the cops called on me for child endangerment or some crap. Put it in a show though, and it is considered genius. I think Gallery art seems to be a money thing. I just don’t make enough to be able to appreciate a blank canvas, or a sheet of glass, or a rock in the emotional sense that I should. Give me a Waterhouse anytime.

I’d just like to point out that, though conceptual art and lots of other art comes listed with a huge price tag- and there are people willing to pay that price, and art does certainly get treated as a commodity-

Well I want to point out that for the most part you don’t have to pay the price of the art work to see it. Most museums (and galleries. they want you to buy but you don’t have to) are free or charge a fee less than what you’d pay for a crappy movie.

So really, you know, you can think about an art work- does it make you laugh, smile, think…does it leave you with a cold dead feeling inside. Is it stupid in a good way or stupid in a bad way? (I’m just thinking of some of my reactions to conceptual art.)You can think about these things without necessarily thinking of the price tag.

To the OP, um, not all conceptual art is good. OK, it’s a form, like free verse, that invites a lot of bad artists. But yes it should be displayed.

I would agree, of course, but I hardly think you can equate conceptual art with the Backstreet Boys or some such. While there are always exceptions, I believe conceptual artists to be genuinely interested in making a statement of some sort (even if most people think they’ve chosen a poor medium for it). It doesn’t happen to be my sort of thing, but I’ve never been led to believe from interviews or conceptual art I’ve seen that the artists were interested primarily in money.

The juxtaposition of the large, the perfectly ordered, the unified whole, with the apparent disorder of countless pieces of randomly composed and assorted minutia (which, taken together, work under their own rules and order, assorting themselves in a not so random fashion – how ironic!). The glass’ apparent ascension from the sand is a metaphor: our modern society, with all of its symmetry and technology is artificial in only the most limited sense; it is just as natural as we are, as it springs from our existence as leaves from a tree or trees from the earth. Also suggests the ultimate (and natural) progression towards order from chaos . . . yet it expresses this fact in the most non-traditional and “free-form” way possiblle: more irony! However, the piece’s fascination with structure is tempered with the fragility of the plate glass – the knowledge that the order can (and ultimately must) be easily destroyed, returned in shards to the sand from which it came and will ultimately stem from once more. Which is the greater influence: nature’s tendency towards order or the necessary cycle of order and disorder? Does the cycle, in fact, destroy all but the illusion of order that the piece at first glance seemed to suggest was natural?

Anyway, I don’t know how much of this the artist intended, but he probably recognized the subjective nature of his piece (and, really, all art). Hey, I don’t claim to have perfect knowledge here, it’s just one way of approaching it.

Was he selling the cubes or just displaying them? Artiscally speaking, the difference is enough to radically alter the piece.

If everybody liked a particular piece of art, it wouldn’t be challenging or meaningful. If nobody created art that wasn’t immediately recognizable as Art, then art would never evolve.

Van Gogh never sold a painting, Beethoven was regarded as noise, etc., etc.

Going to an art college place, we have the “visual arts” people that do this kind of thing. Being a friendly place, they put their stuff in the hallways and such (painting hang on the walls, etc. Vandalism doesn’t occur so it’s cool)…Now maybe I’m just “uncultured” and “ignorant”, but I can only shake my head in wonder at some of them. Not wonder of their “message”, but wonder of what the hell they were doing. I’ve seen some EXTREMELY weird “pieces” in the halls (along the “glass balanced in the sand” type things)…I just don’t get it, and I don’t like it. I don’t like “non-representational” art either (the splashing random colors onto a canvas type deal)…But that’s just me. It’s not “my thing”. And I have no problem with people doing it (and getting a zillion bucks for it from some crazy rich person) or displaying it…If that’s your thing, then hey, go nuts.

What bugs me is when people read WAY too much into the things…Coming up with totally insane explanations of how the piece relates to the deep aspects of life and creation blah blah blah. Hell, I could take this crumpled up empty pop can beside me and ramble about it like that…or the small pile of eraser shavings on my desk. Of course, all these crazy looking pieces of “art” are just “misunderstood” by us common-folk, like Van Gogh’s work…oyy.

That’s pretty much my hitch. That piece that looks like the artist sneezed onto his canvas and spread it around with his feet when he was drunk one night, might very well have been made that way. Throw it up in a gallery, toss in a few complex sounding words to try to confuse the “peons”, and they’ll make up their own wild explanations and call you a genius.

  • Tsugumo (I like viewing/drawing cartoons/videogame graphics, which puts me on the bottom rung of “artists”, down there with comic book artists and “conceptual artists”…we get spit on by all the “real” artists, heh)

I tend to like about 5% of the “conceptual art” that I see. Even so, I seek it out, because for me, personally, that 5% is worth it. Someone else might also like 5%, but a different 5%.

Even of the 95% I don’t care for, there’s another group of stuff that makes me think. Many, although certainly not all, conceptual artists provide some sort of explanation for what they were thinking and aiming for while they were creating the piece of art. By looking at the art, weighing the statements of the artists, evaluating if I think the artist was successful in meeting their goals, and considering my own response to the art, I’m engaging in a process which is valuable to me, even if the end result is a big thumbs down for the piece in question.

Also, most of this type of art is better in person. I often find I have a very different reaction after seeing the actual piece than I did after reading the reviews or seeing it on TV.

Even though my personal relationship with museums like the Whitney is in that love/hate category that sometimes threatens to overwhelm me and cause me to run screaming from the biennial, this art definitely should be displayed. Conceptual art incorporates many ideas that are for the most part unique to that particular kind of art, for example, that “found objects” can take on an aesthetic beyond their original intent; that the viewers’ reactions to a piece add a layer of meaning to the work; and that it is often the combination or juxtaposition of images/objects that provokes an emotional response, rather than the images themselves.

One neat thing that I find about conceptual art is that many pieces combine images and text. This is found in some of the earliest art, such as Egpytian painting and in sculpture of the ancient Near East. The idea that the written word can add power and authority to an image has been around for a long time, and conceptual artists use it both to reinforce images, or to twist traditional meanings.

People who hate conceptual art (or whatever you want to call it) get confused, I think, by two things: the $$money$$ and the zzzcommentaryzzz.

Any work of art is simply the artist saying something. If they could say it in words, they wouldn’t have made the work. They make the statement. Whether anyone listens or not is their choice.

A lot of commentary is just an attempt to put into words what the artist put into an art form precisely because he couldn’t put it into words. In other…words…totally pointless. Unless your one who likes to approach that sort of thing as a kind of word game. And there are some folks who aren’t bad at it.

As for the money, who cares? As someone else here said (though not in so many words) no one is asking you to buy the damn thing. If you can’t separate the work from what it might have cost or what it might cost when sold, you can’t enjoy it as it was meant to be enjoyed. Forget all the commentary and all the money. When you look at it, does it make you feel anything? If it does, like it. If not, don’t like it. The only thing more foolish than a plane of glass in a pile of sand is wasting your time complaining about it.

I have a hard time with the entire room dedicated to a few bowls of colored powder. And sometimes a reviewer will go on and on how a piece is “challenging” or “daring” and it’s just a bunch of montage clippings like a child would make.

One museum had their proudest boasting over a sheet of plate glass 8’x8’ standing upright in a pile of ordinary sand. Fine. Put it in your garden. Behind the garage. But why dedicate valuable exhibition space to it?

I have a hard time with professional sports. And sometimes a sportscaster will go on and on how a play is “challenging” or “daring” and it’s just a bunch of running around and throwing/hitting things.

One sport had their proudest boasting over some steroid abuser who kept hitting a ball over a fence. Fine. Play it in your garden. Behind the garage. But why dedicate valuable downtown real estate and taxpayer funds to it?

I have a hard time with movies. And sometimes a reviewer will go on and on how a film is “challenging” or “daring” and it’s just a bunch of people killing each other and having sex.

One movie had its proudest boasting over an overwraught soap opera about some ship hitting an iceberg. Fine. Watch it in your garden. Behind the garage. But why dedicate over 100 million dollars to it?

I have a hard time with jazz. And sometimes a jazz musician will go on and on how a jazz performance is “challenging” or “daring” and it’s just a bunch of elitist musicians making funny noises.

One song had their proudest boasting over this sax solo that 99% of people mistake for cats having sex. Fine. Play it in your garden. Behind the garage. But why dedicate another interminable Ken Burns documentary to it?


ps… 99% of conceptual artists make less money in a year than people who work part-time at the Gap.