Flocking To Modern Art

I used to love modern art. I used to fancy myself being an artist and thought about going to the fine arts academy after highschool. But nothing gets more tiring than modern art, really. Half of it is simply made for the shock effect, because shock effects create major publicity. Marcel Duchamp commented on the modern art/marketing scene with his signed urinal in 1917, that’s 89 years ago, and yet characters like Jeff Koons still thought they could “usher in banality” in 1988. Just about 71 years late, mate. And nowadays we have Damien Hirst doing it all over again. Shock! Horror! Animals in formaldehyde!

With Hirst continually dumping animals in formaldehyde one could easily think that he is a one-trick pony. But then again so is Christo. He started off by wrapping a chair and has since gone on to wrap landmarks like the Pont Neuf in Paris in cloth. And Jeff Koons is forever stuck in his banality theme – don’t these people have any new ideas?

And that’s my point. Art, in my opinion, is all about a new way of looking at things. And the greatest artists show a remarkable development in their work: studying Piet Mondriaan for example, one can easily see how Broadway Boogie-Woogie came into being. The Dutch artist never stopped abstrahizing the world around him until he entered the world of pure composition. There was a newness about Mondriaan’s work almost every step of the way, and even this, his last, work is taking yet another turn – back to the figurative world of a Manhattan street plan full of yellow cabs, or so it seems.

I know the pundits will tell me that I do not understand Hirst or Koons or Christo. But what is there to understand? It’s all as flat as a dime as we say in Holland – what depth is there in a tank of formaldehyde with a sheep, entitled Away From The Flock? Even the title shows a complete lack of imagination. And yet thousands of books are written about this art, the writers of which have scrambled to come up with some deep sounding meaning to it all. For fear of placing themselves outside of the art scene, where noone ever admits to not understanding any object presented to them as art, critics and gallery dwellers all marvel at what is, for all intents and purposes, a preserved sheep. And the newness of that is restricted to the rather dry conclusion that noone’s ever done it before. Which is, judged by the sheer idiocy of it, hardly surprising.

Hirst could have dumped a whole flock of sheep in formaldehyde and called it The Art Scene. But then probably they’d all think he didn’t mean them.

(Post inspired by Sante Brun’s [Dutch language] blog, who brought news of “an American gentleman with glasses who uttered incomprehensible gibberish” about a calf in formaldehyde – which he sold for about ten million euros.)



  1. Mijn God moet dat in het ENGELS??? Waarom spreek je je moerstaal niet? Kan je daar nergens meer mee komen? Dan is het treurig met je gesteld. Het lezen van het Engels daar word ik dood onkritelijk van. Gewoon omdat ik er geen zin in heb. Wat doen menschen toch rare dingen. Ik moet je artikel helaasch ongelezen laten. Het beste.


  2. Juzo is asking why I write in English. Excuse me while I reply to him – in Dutch.

    Waarom moet dit in het Nederlands? Ik heb vrienden over de hele wereld en maar weinigen van hen kunnen Nederlands lezen. Zelfs mijn vriendin niet. Ik kan me natuurlijk beperken tot het Nederlandse taalgebied, maar waarom zou ik als ik het ook in het Engels kan? Ben ik nu een soort landverrader, een cultuurmoordenaar?

    [Why does it have to be in Dutch? I have friends all over the world and only a few of them can read Dutch. Not even my girlfriend can. I could of course limit myself to the Dutch language, but why should I if I can also write in English? Does this make me a traitor, a slayer of culture?]

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