knowledge of art


Some language is called literature. There is theater that is considered to be art and music with a comparable status. Untill 1900 visual art was mostly the doing of draughtsmen, painters and sculptors. Since then about everything can be used to realise visual art. It can vary from a unmade bed to a single neon tube, a well polished portion of a museumfloor or an evacuated room in a galery. How do we know that these are art?

This was the question the philosopher Arthur Danto faced when visiting an exhibition in 1964 where Andy Warhol showed a number of soapbox-imitations. Whether this should be qualified as art could only be decided by people with the appropiate knowlegde.*After all, unlike before, art had become an invitation to contemplate about art rather than to enjoy it. Danto saw a relation between this developement and the idea of the philosopher Hegel that the history of mankind had been made up of the genesis of the spirit. Art, says Danto, finishes with the arrival of its own philosophy.

It is a reassuring to know that there are people who concern themselves on a theoretical level with the question what art is. The relevance of the outcome for the practice of art has to be awaited. Every year hundreds of thousands are in pursuit of some valuable experience through works of art. Thanks to the influence of entrepreneurs like Saatchi, daring investors of capital and public media many new art-stars have risen. The survival of large exhibitions and musea has become dependent of the surge of people. In the eighties the artworld became fed up with intelectualism. The curators of the Whitney Biennial thought in 1989 that; " We are now in a situation where wealth is the only accepted judge of value".*

Supporters of an egalitarian society-model can not stand the difference between academic and popular art.* There are critics who long for the art of former days because they find contemporary art unaccesible for the common man. They compare the 'official' art of the west with the required art in centrally governed states although in our democracies no man is prevented in any way from following his own preferences. The quantity of reproductions of his screenprints testify to Andy Warhols'status as a contemporary art-star. And also his colleagues Damien Hirst or Jeff Koons can not be reproached for building a hermetic oeuvre.

"Art is the intersecion of many human needs", noted sculptor Carl André once. The learned interpretation is only one of them.

*Arthur C. Danto, ' De komedie van de overeenkomsten'.

*Olav Velthuis, 'Imaginaire economie'. pg 86.

*Matthew Collins;

"When I’m being extreme, I’m capable of thinking that frankly the whole art scene is made up of a bunch of idiots. And I have no desire to get millions of ordinary people to queue up to look at that stuff. Why should they? It’s got nothing much to do with them. To suddenly expect it to be popular is asking the impossible. There really is very little in it for a mass audience and I think this mass audience it’s suddenly now got, knows that really. And they’re not really interested; they’re just along for the ride, for the nonsense. The mandarin people in charge of the Turner Prize, and the media people at Channel 4, and middle-class people who run the art columns on the broadsheets, all assume ordinary people must have this stuff explained to them -- but the motivations for doing that are completely bullshit."

Rotterdam, 2014, JH