What is ART? - any Artists out there?

I think Fountain was mentioned earlier in the thread. The present situation is not new, and that piece was a reaction to it.

Fine art was also mentioned in the thread - I’d thought that a euphemism for pictures of ladies with not enough clothes that you could hang in your living room. :wink:

I’m not!There’s just so much wrong with that article Here’s a few reasons why.

Firstly he’s conflating the world of artists and the capitalist art market. Rabbit was made about twenty-five years ago and was the star of three simultaneous Koons exhibitions whose works were made in editions of three and whose total sales grossed about $1 million. Rabbit’s recent auction price is a product of art market rarity and speculative investment and yet still seems a more sound and enjoyable investment compared to the current vogue for NFTs and the following currently most ‘valuable’ examples

  • 1. ‘The Merge’ — $91.8m – 30,000 collectors pitched together to purchase shares in this NFT.
  • 2. The First 5000 Days — $69.3m – The most expensive NFT ever sold to a single buyer.
  • 3. Clock — $52.7m – A real-time counter of Julian Assange’s imprisonment designed by Pak.

Secondly, he has a problem with artists designing work that is fabricated by others under the artist’s direction. This creative model exists in many other art forms, and in painting has been around for centuries. 'I’m much more invested in the idea of fabricators, blacksmiths, metalworkers, steelworkers — you know the deal — as being artists. ’ Most blacksmiths are artisan craftspeople whose typical work model is very different from that of workers in the steel industry and very different to that of foundry managers and casting technicians.

Metal, steel, and all these other materials people would otherwise associate with blue collar labour and “function over style” — ugly materials, so to speak — these things can make art too.’ Picasso was using iron and sheet steel in the 1920s and since the 1960s a lot of large abstract public sculpture in North America has been made from Cor-Ten steel which has a rusty finish.

History teacher needs to learn some art history

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Don’t tell his students.

Everything you say sounds qualified and follows on from the argument in favour of concept over craftsmanship.

Perhaps I misread but I understood the writer as saying that working with steel does not make it art merely by using that medium. I’m sure all the fabricators working in Koon’s large factories are all an artistic bunch.

Somehow, I still feel those gigantic bulbous monstrosities are a tremendous joke that everyone is either in on or too afraid of being called a philistine to call out.

You may well imagine the hoot I was to walk around Art Basel with


I’ve been professionally researching, thinking and writing about these matters for over thirty years. The important thing to bear in mind (which most people don’t) is that these are judgements of category, not quality. Obviously strong craft beats weak art if we’re playing some sort of aesthetic rock, paper, scissors game. Nevertheless a necessary element of my doctoral thesis was arguing against Kant’s very influential concept of aesthetic disinterest which stated that utiitarian objects couldn’t be ‘beautiful’.

It was daunting to be a thirty something non-entity intuitively trying to argue against one of the greatest Western philosophers - it took a long time, but I prevailed by using a mixture of historical precedent (the criteria of classical beauty since the Greeks were demonstrably based on sexual attractiveness),but also postmodern theorists like Derrida and lastly, common sense!

Perhaps, but have you ever seen the original Rabbit? It’s tiny and surprisingly wonderful!

Koons tends to use a wide range of independent fabricators who are usually the very best in their field or medium- it’s a very different business model to that of Warhol’s Factory.

Now back to United v Arsenal…

You’re arguing by citing anecdotal examples from fifty or sixty years ago, whereas everyone else who’s posted is dealing with the present. A great many things have changed in the intervening decades both in the world of art and in the medium of photography

Thanks for showing several views of the sculpture, something that’s so often overlooked wherein one particular 2D view becomes the archetypal representation, as though one were looking at a reproduction of a painting.

Your posting prompted two thoughts:-

Firstly, whatever the artist’s intentions, spectators can rarely touch that sort of ostensibly tactile sculpture unless it’s placed outdoors. The main practical reason for this is that continually being touched changes and stains the sculpture’s patina: this process can also be slightly acidic and possibly irretrievably damaging to even non-ferrous alloys such as bronze.

Secondly, I didn’t know this late work, but I was struck that although it formally references an ancient warrior’s helmet, its form is far closer to elements from the early C20th Futurist (and proto-Fascist) sculptor Umberto Boccioni’s *Unique Forms of Continuity in Space,*which is one of the most famous modernist sculptures and an example of it has been in the Tate for many generations and must have been very familiar to HM.

It’s on the Italian 20 or 50 cent coins (can’t remember which, don’t have one to hand!).

Was very disappointed the first time I saw the real thing, I’d assumed it was (human) life-sized, whereas actually in a head to head, it would probably come off second best to Koon’s aforementioned bunny!

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Reality can be disappointing, as anyone who has made the trek out to the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen can testify.


I hope I haven’t inadvertently prompted someone’s idea for some digital reality contest where famous art works fight one another!

Am sincerely not trying, but nonetheless struggling(!) not to imagine the Mona Lisa with a black eye

Well, it is the little mermaid!

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I had imagined her a) somewhat bigger and b) not so close to the shore. Actually I loved having lots to look at, that enormous fountain of some goddess ploughing up whereveritis with oxen, not far away from the LM :slightly_smiling_face: also the fishwife in front of that awful bookshop full of nazi stuff.
My favourite thing in Copenhagen was the splendiferous silver cauldron (Gundestrup?) with Cernunnos or whoever on it.


Thank you for this very stimulating thread and I apologise for dragging all away from the Little Mermaid.

As a lover if craftsmanship, I am more inclined towards William Morris’s advice to ‘Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.’. Only I take it a bit further and try to apply both.

I can almost hear Leonardo calling out to his studio, “Just leave me the face and hands boys, I’ll be back later!” So, in conclusion we may say the one with the concept is called artist. The fabricators of the creation are ‘fabricators’ or um, craftsmen? I do hope they are suitably remunerated.

In this not new production system we might also include the technically complex and aesthetically sublime porcelain masterpieces of craftsmanship created in China through the centuries. (Though not so much the last one.) A craft founded in and excelling particularly because of the microdivided system if labour. The clay body created by one (or a group of) man. Underglaze painting by truly artistic brush painters. Firing by a group of engineering marvels. Enamellers, glazers, handing a single piece from man to man … A man over a lifetime, through generations would hone his knowledge and skill to perfection. Still, not considered art.

However, This was and is art, more than a little before its time from a man who was devastated by events of history in China, Bada Shanren (八大山人; born Zhu Da, 朱耷), 1606-1725


I have seen only one Rabbit, about 3ft tall. Very finely crafted :smile:. Says much about the values of current society.

I understand the concept of how Art is currently defined but find it sometimes runs contrary to my personal choice. As with many things, we can teach about it but we don’t have to like it. I suppose the reason I was always driven to certain objects of art was more because it felt like the people of the past were sending me a conversation. When I was still young I saw Constantin Brancusi’s ‘Sleeping Muse’, 1910. I do not even remember where we were but I know that I could hardly breathe. The very essence of life, an egg shaped androgynous perfection. I know that artist’s work influenced many who followed, even Koons. Ancient Cycladic art, early African art, Japan … Such a long continuous filament


Sometimes I think about all the wondrous creations made in the past as works of art, be they for religious inspiration or private patronage, and I wonder what will survive the test of time to speak of us in the future. Perhaps, as an obsessed student of history I really do not give enough credit to the present.

For anyone who may be interested, here is a work of Chinese fine art, exquisite simplicity of form but immense meaning, painted in 1306.

Zheng Sixiao, Ink Orchid , 1306, handscroll, ink on paper, 25.7 x 42.4 cm. (Osaka Municipal Museum of Art)

Try to ignore all the inscriptions added over long years, much of it in the imperial collection, just imagine seeing the painting in its original form

The wild orchid with a faint, delicate fragrance grew in hidden and secluded places. Thus, the orchid symbolically embodied the characteristics of self-containment, reservation, simplicity, solitude and unpretentiousness. This solitary, finely and abstemiously wrought orchid is how Zheng depicted himself.

There is no depiction of roots or ground. The orchid seems to float in the air. When people at the time enquired as to why Zheng depicted it so, he was reported to have replied, “Don’t you know that the earth was stolen by the barbarians?” The rootlessness of the orchid added to the symbolism, for it connoted that Zheng was also without a home with the collapse of the Southern Song. Zheng became a yimin, a leftover subject. The rootless orchid was a personal statement of his refusal to serve the Yuan Mongolian court—a court ruled by foreigners.

Leaving the background empty added great strength to the artwork. In the painting, the substance and the void complement each other. The void is not nothingness, but a space for imagination. Without details in the background, it also allows us to focus on the subject matter and inscription. Zheng wrote a poem to the right of the orchid, which expressed his bitterness at the fall of the Song. He compared himself to the orchid, emphasizing its faint, everlasting fragrance.

The rootless orchid lends insights into Zheng’s artistic skills and philosophy as well as aspects of his life. While conveying a strong statement by Zheng, the painting did not arouse anger or hatred but a sense of quietness. It elegantly embodied the modesty and integrity of this reclusive literati. Many subsequent literati appreciated and respected Zheng’s temperament and his depiction of the rootless orchid. The rule of balance in form to void follows through into ceramics, furniture and even architecture.

Not to be confused with late Qing dynasty more-is-better productions and Chinoiserie!

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Now that world arbiters have established that ‘art’ is in the idea, not the execution; does not need to be original thought or unique; and Warhol slid commercial creation into art, perhaps we can push open the door a little wider.

There is a man I would call an artist, whose commercial creations I think worthy, certainly more than the mocking social commentary of Warhol, of appreciation as art.

Count Renato Zavagli Ricciardelli delle Caminate, professionally known as:
René Gruau, 1909-2004

Known during the 50s and 60s as a ‘fashion illustrator’, his timeless images in turn influenced fashion designers. Influenced himself by Chinese brushwork and Japanese woodblock prints, he utilised form and void to create elegant movement and a sophisticated joie de vivre inspired by and inspiring the ladies of les grands rues of Paris.


I have been very careful to distance my own photography from the idea of ART. If people like my pictures and hang them on their walls, that’s great. If they find meaning or a message in the images, also great. But, I just make photographs - there are no pretentions of being an artist in the technical sense - and this keeps me away from the tensions (and snidey put-downs I’ve seen elsewhere - not here) that can arise.

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Many former, or still practising artists work as artists’ fabricators - it’s usually very interesting and well paid work that often involves a lot of technical problem solving. Beyond them there are specilist engineers and programmers who will work with the fabricators. It’s a hidden industry.

Yay! Where do I sign up?

I love a mix of engineering and art.