Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Rich People Can Be Stupid

One of the things about the local ArtPrize competition this year is that they open up the Grand Rapids Art Museum for free. It's a beautiful facility, but it gets too crowded during ArtPrize. Since I wanted to avoid the crowds, I went into the regular art museum's non-ArtPrize floors. What I saw was remarkable.

Remarkably bad.

It's my opinion that beauty inheres within the object. This is a minority opinion, because we see lots of cases where one person regards something as beautiful when another regards it as ugly. My reply to this is that tastes need to be cultivated. When I was a child I thought coffee tasted horrid, and Tabasco was painful. As I grew older, I acquired a more sophisticated palette. If beauty inheres within the object and tastes are subject to cultivation, then a wise individual will try to cultivate virtuous tastes and eschew vicious ones. That doesn't happen much in today's society.

Instead rich guys of dubious taste hire art experts. These art experts proceed to curate art collections and to acquire pieces that will enhance the reputation of the collection. It's all a matter of reputation and unlike the fable of the Emperor's New Clothes, there's no little boy to point out the ridiculous.

Thus I went through the collection at the Grand Rapids Art Museum marveling at the pieces that had been donated by this rich guy or that rich guy. "You paid good money for that?" I thought. "Stupid."

That's the subversive threat of ArtPrize. People can see a hundred times more art in a few weeks than they'd otherwise see in years. Anyone can enter anything and quite frankly, a lot of stuff is put out that should be tacked to the refrigerator. Yet, there's a lot of beauty on display and the public is more inclined to vote for beauty than for ugliness.

Once you get an eyeful of ArtPrize entries, you can look at the high art in the museum and I for one have found it woefully lacking. The experts are caught in a groupthink where they only listen to similarly credentialed experts. And because they're experts, rich guys take them seriously.

And that's how Rich People Can Be Stupid.

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