Some documentary filmmakers set out to see whether the vast unwashed masses could appreciate contemporary art that sells for millions in art galleries. They had the artist, Tuynmans, whose artwork sells for millions, painted it on a wall in the Belgian city of Antwerp and they found that 96% of passersby didn’t give it a second glance.
In the video, they start by getting museum curators and art experts to gush on the “importance” of Tuynmans and how, even when it is taken out of its “context” and “vocabulary”, the average Joe should be able to appreciate it.
Yet, in the end, when no one stops to watch the abstract image of monkeys copulating—Yes, really—the filmmakers don’t conclude that there might be something lacking in the art—and in contemporary abstract art in general—but that this should be a wake-up call for average folks to get with it and recognize the artwork that they don’t see as beautiful or “important.”
Incidentally, I wonder what would have happened had there been a Rembrandt or Vermeer or Caravaggio painted on the wall. I suspect the numbers would have been quite different.
I also remarked to Melanie that I suspect that the gradual shift of art appreciation from art created for the glory of God to art done for the glory of commerce (note the emphasis on the video on how much Tuynman’s art sells for). which began during the Renaissance, can be tracked alongside its decline from something that is true in itself and that every person can appreciate on its face to something that requires an art appreciation course to appreciate.
Update: Melanie (who’s writing her own blog post on this video) just made a very good point that she’ll expand on herself. When you watch the video, you may realize that you never get a good view of any of Tuynman’s art. It’s always in the distance or behind the artist or the people in the gallery or the art expert. If that’s not symbolic I don’t know what is: You aren’t allowed to view the art for yourself on your own terms; you’re only allowed to approach through someone else’s interpretation of it for you.