Friday, 5 December 2008

Nude on a Beach – Pablo Picasso


Yes, it’s witty.  Yes, it’s amusing.  Yes, he does so much with just a few lines.  Yes, it’s Picasso (and Pablo Picasso never got called an arsehole, did he).  But does it really say anything at all that’s really worth a damn?  Does it communicate a worldview?  If so, what?  Is it a shortcut to your very philosophy; a way to see and to experience your deepest values and to celebrate them in the process

In other words, is it art? Or is it just good graphics to chatter about with your friends?


  1. Art, most certainly! I'll resist the temptation to dive headfirst into a lengthy attack on the desperately narrow Objectivist definition of 'Good Art' like I did a few years ago (which was a most enjoyable debate, as I recall) but I don't really believe art has a duty to be a 'shortcut to your very philosophy' or 'your deepest values' or anything quite so weighty.

    To me, excellent art can simply be the reframing of an object in such a way as to invite contemplation, or to ask a question. To you, it seems it must present a pre-destined, packaged viewpoint. Taken in this light, it is almost a tool of proselytisation! Scary thought...

    The danger there, is that once you establish a set of rules or premises for the creation of 'good art', the outcomes can miss the whole aesthetic point, ie the Bruce Goff house:

    ...which in your own words is 'severely underrated architecture' yet you concede that it is aesthetically unsuccessful. I think that if the jarringly ugly exterior was somehow part of the architectural statement, there'd be more of a case to answer in terms of its merits, but I stand behind my initial view that it is a great example of arbitrary rules churning out substandard results.


    (BTW Not to complain, but I was a tad put out that you chose not to respond to either of my rather lengthy ramblings on the Gutman House and that odd farm building. I don't want to suggest that I expect you to take up every argument on here, and you've had your hands full with the Christian carry-on of late, but I'm banging the drum for my special interest here!)

  2. Nude what on a beach, alligator?

  3. I think there's a place for art that is not particularly deep or challenging.

    It may be the painting equivalent of a dirty limerick but a lot of people like that stuff.

    People prefer to look at it and talk about it ahead of whatever else they were going to do. You did.

  4. Art is something that people can enjoy when they're lazy. Art doesn't motivate people to achieve anything in this world nor does it enhances the intellectual capability of a person. It is subjective (this fact is undeniable) and its place in our life is largely a sort of useless indulgence which is typical of our Western culture.

    Does art increase our economic productivity? None at all.

  5. Its certainly not art, and its not even good graphics either, in my opinion.

    This fool's 'work' is nothing less than a heap of pretentious shit and I can't believe that any 'artist' with such a lack of talent ever got taken seriously.... let alone commanding such ridiculous prices.

  6. Den, Art doesn't have a "duty" to be a 'shortcut to your philosophy' any more than a table has a duty to be surface with legs on which we can put stuff.

    But to "be" art it has to be more than just "something that looks nice on the wall" (or "something that shocks my friends"), just as a table has to be more than just "that thing in the corner."

    This is not at all to say that art is "a pre-packaged viewpoint" -- but that what a piece of art irrevocably demonstrates is the way the artist looks at the world: and if the artist is a good one, that's a pretty encompassing image.

    And if the artist is a good one, and you respond to their work with vigour, then that tells you something about yourself, doesn't it.

    Which makes sense of what Nigel is saying.

    He says, "I think there's a place for art that is not particularly deep or challenging. It may be the painting equivalent of a dirty limerick but a lot of people like that stuff."

    Now, when you understand that Nigel's statement and the idea that art is 'a shortcut to your deepest values' are not contradictory, you'll start to see what I mean.

    PS: Yes, sorry not to have time to respond further on the Goff thread. I think I have a few outstanding responses to make on multiple threads (including an answer to Jeff on Gaudi), for which I can only apologise.

  7. Stephane,

    I think you've been looking at the wrong art. Or reading the wrong books on economics.

    May I recommend less Picasso, and more Mises. :)

  8. Does it really say anything at all that’s really worth a damn? Does it communicate a worldview? If so, what?

    "All art is propaganda but not all propaganda is art." - Lu Xun. Not sure that I really agree with him, but I guess you have to if the purpose of communicating a worldview is to influence the worldview of others.

  9. The primary purpose of art is not to influence the worldview of others (that's just boring didactism).

    It's not even to communicate a worldview to others.

    The primary purpose is to concretise that worldview for yourself.

  10. I think the primary purpose of art is whatever the artist intends it to be, but certainly most artists hope that their work will be seen by others. If after seeing it people aren't affected then it doesn't have any artistic value.
    Why would somebody want to concretise their worldview if they don't want think that worldview has the potential to change the world in some way? The Pope wouldn't have commissioned Michaelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel if the only person affected was to be Michaelangelo.


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