I love what Duchamp gave the world of art. Readymades are an important artistic concept, decoupling technique from inspiring idea. His great thought is that art has no bounds, no technical requirement. It just needs to inspire, provide insight, activate, or express something that might connect. His innovation helped in the long-haul process of making art more accessible.
Art’s contribution to the world from a psychic, emotional, and financial standpoint is immeasurable. Generations have been inspired and provoked by culture & expression in its many forms, from writing to design to murals to theater.
Catellan’s “Comedian”, a banana taped to the wall, which sold 3 times for a total of $390,000, was Art Basel Miami Beach’s crazy art happening du jour this year. Three insanely wealthy purveyors of art, ideas, and aristocracy, spent a large sum of money, more than most folks do in multiple years, on something utterly useless, impractical, and notably, decaying.
Buyers also received instructions on how to hang the banana, and all of a sudden our mind is in a pretzel about the question most folks come back to when art pushes its very own limits: what, in fact, is art?
And it’s a question worth taking up! But as someone who works at the intersection of art and activism, I have to say, the frivolity and headline-grabbing nature of the international gallery scene does art at large a massive injustice.
When it comes down to it, not enough of us are invested in the question posed above, so when art-stunts like Catellan’s “Comedian” come to bare, the insanity of the situation supersedes all, including what it means for making art accessible to more people.
While many institutions say things along those lines, many work to keep art exclusive. It serves them.
It’s that aloof, silly, impractical approach that keeps art on the fringes of society. It communicates to the rest of the world that art is, quite frankly, useless.
And no one would be wrong in assuming that, but there’s so much more to it.
I can’t help but think about what could be done for art education, art experiences in underserved communities, cultural resources outside high-rent areas, and the overall appreciation and support of the arts in society at large, if the money spent on pieces of art like Catellan’s banana was used to widen the circle, be more inclusive, and to energize and inspire more people with the power of art.
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