The Art Biz: The Snobs vs the People

Art, like love, sex and all good things human, has been co-opted by the money-changers. The goal, as always, is maximizing profit and prestige.

If you play the game, your art may become “collectible” that is, an investment that will rise in value until its worth millions, kind of like a super-performing stock. Then every blob of pigment that drips from your brush is pure gold, whether it’s crap or not. Do you really think every doodle of Picasso’s is genius? Could the poor man not just screw around with a crayon without somebody grabbing it and framing it?

Lost van Gogh painting
Lost van Gogh painting

Van Gogh destroyed many of his works, which art collectors consider a tragedy. I say those works were probably crap, like the works I send to the dumpster frequently. Take, for example, the lost Van Gogh that was recently discovered and trumpeted in the news. Vincent probably just forgot to destroy that one. It is not wonderful, yet it will fetch big money. (For lesser-known VanGoghs, some of which are wonderful see van Gogh Gallery)

Sadly, many wealthy art collectors don’t get an ounce of pleasure from their art; it’s strictly an investment, like any commodity. Art critics and the art establishment collude with all this (their jobs depend on it!) making authoritative pronouncements on the next movement or the next genius, which no one is willing to challenge, because they are Art Authorities.

When I was doing oil portraits in Ocala, the subject matter, naturally enough, was horses. Ocala was full of horse farms owned by men like Disney and Steinbrenner and a name brand artist could get $10,000 and upward for a portrait. I thought it odd that those portraits were not any better than my $500 portraits. What was the difference? A kindly insider let me in on the secret.

If I would dress and talk a certain way, if I would schmooze at cocktail parties, if I would warmly kiss the arses of the wealthy, I, too, could enter the ranks of the $10,000 artists. I have to admit, I considered this, but somehow the whole scenario made me sick.

The goal toward which American artists (like American everybody)-are pushed is making money. Making money is good, we all need to pay the light bill but I think you can see how commercializing all the spiritual impulses of mankind can deaden us.

African rock art
African rock art

Look, we are all born artists. The rock art created by unknown Stone Age painters and carvers is rather astonishing. Picasso said after visiting Lascaux, “We have learned nothing.” And some rock art is crappy, because our ancestors were only human and we don’t always succeed. If a regular person says, “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like,” the noses of the art snobs go up in the air and snort, “Philistine!”

The message is: “We are better than you, we have more class, we will tell you what you like.” The appropriate response is, “Screw you, you self-appointed snob.”

below: Jackson Pollock literally climbed on a stepladder and dripped pigment onto huge canvases. This one hangs in the Museum of Modern Art

jackson pollock

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