• Sophie Olympia

On Subjectivity

Updated: Mar 17, 2019

I've had a few moments recently that have reinforced the idea that not only is art subjective, but so too is the concept of art.

Last week, while working First Friday, a couple came into the gallery and asked me to define "Fine Art." To be perfectly frank, I wasn't quite sure what to say. They felt that there was a distinction between fine art and art that was highly commercialized. I think that we can all agree that's an unlikely definition - consider the Andy Warhols and Damien Hirsts of the world, would you say that their art is not considered "fine art?" In fact, I think that the fairs of recent years have shown that successful fine art is commercial.

Fine art is essentially a trusted label offered by a select group of experts and connoisseurs, is it not? As roles in the art world change, and access to those roles broadens, the number of people granted the dubious ability to dub work "fine art" also increases, broadening our understanding of such. This isn't a problem, except around the edges. But that's just me. What would be your answer?

Then, earlier this week as I was visiting the Denver Art Museum, I overheard a couple having an argument regarding this piece:

Rick Bartow, "Crow Dance" (2004) at the Denver Museum of Art

The general gist was that the wife didn't like the piece - thought it was ugly in fact - and therefore thought it didn't deserve to be in a museum. You can see my Instagram post and discussion about it here. What do you think? Does art necessarily have to be beautiful to have value? And, do you think this piece is beautiful?

And finally, as part of an assignment for a course I'm taking, I came across this:

"Art isn't about utter agreement. Math may be... but culture is interesting. Art is about not so much having a single standard, but coming to understand for yourself why you have the standards you do and what the implications are and where that takes you. And then, you know, keeping your eyes open enough to be able to maybe evolve to have different standards, to like different things."
- Michael Kimmelman

This resonated so heavily with me (if you haven't seen Michael Kimmelman on Art, you should - it's short, so no excuses). This is how I try to apply myself to the consideration of art, and my perception in constantly changing. That isn't to say that I'm immune from the temptation to judge people's artistic preference or the art that people make and represent, but rather that I try to be aware of my prejudice (or standards) and what implications those prejudices have on the way I perceive art, and how I interact with artists/gallerists/collectors.

So, what does art mean to you? What is fine art? How do you prejudices (artistic and otherwise) influence the way you consume or make art?

#artthoughts #michaelkimmelman #artcritique #art #subjectivity #fineart


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