Andy Warhol, the man who painted Campbell soup labels and framed them as art, once said, “Good business is the best art.” (“Damage Control, by Ben Lerner, Harper’s, Dec. 2013 p. 46) Certainly, when it came to art Warhol knew his business. When the performance artist, Dorothy Podber, shot a hole through Warhol’s colored photograph of Marilyn Monroe, he didn’t press charges. He signed the piece and changed the title from Red Marilyn to Shot Red Marilyn. Later, the work sold for $4million. (Ibid pg. 46.) The difference between a ruined work of art and one considered to be avant-garde depended solely on whether or not the artist embraced the damage.
When it comes value, like religion, what is or isn’t art depends upon faith– faith in the artist’s sincerity, faith in the critic who says the work has merit and faith that others will accept the piece as art. The laws of science may be immutable but aesthetics change as each artist attempts to escape the norm and present us with new visions. Modern art makes a point of deconstructing the world which is why some argue that to vandalize an old master is to make it modern. Certainly that’s what Laslo Toth claimed when he took a hammer to Michelangelo’s Pieta` in 1972. Others have followed his example and had their desecrations rejected or accepted depending of the consensus of experts. (Ibid, pg. 45.)
Defining what art is and whether or not it’s good or bad is so subjective, the field accumulates a lot of twaddle. Literature is no different. Doris Lessing, winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for her various novels and short stories, made a mockery of these arbitrary standards when she anonymously submitted two new novels to her longtime publisher and a few other major presses. Both works were universally rejected.
Lessing found the experiment amusing. She could afford to. The rest of us who toil in the trenches aren’t laughing. We see another example of how fame defines art as much as skill.
(Courtesy of www.telegraph.co.uk)