Judging Art in a post-modern world

If skill is a thing of the past – or at the least has become disassociated from the artist – and there are no standards by which to judge works, where are we left?

Too much philosophising can lead thinkers into blind alleys and back tracking is as hard a task as breaking new ground in thought. But a little back tracking is necessary to keep the interesting discoveries of Modernism while moving forward because right now we are stuck in a model of art that has remained unchanged for too long.

In 2016 when meeting with students at the Slade I was informed the new generation deals with art history better than the YBA. This was intersting as I believe that conceptualism threw everything out and impoverished itself. While giving us some fascinating insights it also produces the ridiculous – such as the mounds of scrunched up packaging paper from Amazon placed on a pedestal.

It is not sufficient to view the world in a unique way because we all do that. We have no choice we are all unique individuals and we filter reality in our own subtle ways even when agreeing with each other. So how do we actually set about judging the art we see?

This problem has confused the public and many artists. Judgment has gone nowhere even though critics have been diminished. But the reasons for judgment have been jumbled up and become enmeshed in the ‘everything is art’ concept of post-modernism. Everyone has their own discernment and everyone has ideas of what is art, what is artistic, what is crafted and what is crafted well. But the voice of discernment is silenced by the fear that we cannot upset the social science mantra that we are all artists. If that were true we would not be living in the world we are living in. It is far more true to say that we are all salesmen but it is simply wrong to say we are all artists. Even if we were all engaged in artistic activity which we are not, some would have a better eye than others. To notice this is to be a critic and we all notice it.

Rethinking where we are is the next vital step in art history. To achieve that wisely we must rethink Duchamp, analyse government patronage of the arts and make public discourse the centre engagement because it is in discerning words we will find the future, for words and art have always gone hand-in-hand and it was their disconnection that has debilitated art.

Daniel Nanavati

Volume 31 no. 5 page 7

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