Essays, Analyses and Meditations

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The Real History of Art

  • We assume that the history of art a smooth continuum but in fact what we mean by "art", and in fact by "masterpiece", has changed over the centuries because the people deciding what constitutes art have changed: the Catholic Church decided which artists were worthy of painting, sculpting and building (we have no memory of the others); then the aristocracy decided which artists were worthy of decorating their palaces with paintings and sculptures; and finally the modern world of art relies on definitions that come mainly from art critics, because they influence what art galleries sell and what art museums acquire, and therefore what will be remembered.
  • The perceived value of art depends on the values of the art critic
  • The artists who do not fit the paradigm of the critics will be ignored by galleries and museums and presumably patrons
  • The critic, who decides what is and what is not art, literally invents an artistic era. The critic is, in a sense, the real creator.
  • Artists are, in turn, influenced by the artistic era in which they live, the era that has been "manufactured" by critics
  • Art becomes merely a vehicle for the aesthetic/ideology of the critics