Monday, September 15, 2008

The More Things Change

“We talk far too much. We should talk less and draw more. I personally should like to renounce speech altogether and, like organic Nature, communicate everything I have to say in sketches. That fig tree, this little snake, the cocoon on my window sill quietly awaiting its future – all these are momentous signatures.

A person able to decipher their meaning properly would soon be able to dispense with the written or the spoken word altogether. The more I think of it, there is something futile, mediocre, even (I am tempted to say) foppish about speech. By contrast, how the gravity of Nature and the silence startle you, when you stand face to face with her, undistracted, before a barren ridge or in the desolation of ancient hills.”

This quote, attributed to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), is the starting point for today’s blog, that we might reflect on the pure and the impure aspects of the art world.

Would a return to the 18th century and the simple acts of drawing and deciphering visual information remove us from the evil influences of the 21st century’s ART MARKET and its UNEDUCATED COLLECTORS? In the Guardian, Robert Hughes has just written a scathing indictment of Damien Hirst’s auction, today and tomorrow, of his (Hirst’s) own work through Sotheby’s. You can read it here. And the French have their pantalons in a twist over the installation of Jeff Koons’ Bunnies and Lobsters at Versailles, the Sun King’s legendary palace with its Hall of Mirrors.

But was not Versailles a very grand Bunny of its day? The more things change, the more they stay the same. And when it comes to art as commodity, the 17th and 18th centuries have more in common with the 21st than we might imagine.

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