Taste and Art

Definitions:

  • “Taste,” as I use it here, is “the faculty of discerning what is aesthetically excellent” (from TheFreeDictionary, taste, n. 7. a).
  • “Art” consists of “the conscious production or arrangement of sounds, colors, forms, movements, or other elements in a manner that affects the sense of beauty” (from TheFreeDictionary, art, n. 2. a).
  • An “artifact” is “an object produced or shaped by human craft, especially a tool, weapon, or ornament of archaeological or historical interest” (from TheFreeDictionary, artifact, n. 1).

There is a good test of the faculty of taste at this site, where a visitor can view a series of ten images and designate each as “art” or “non-art.” The viewer’s choice, in each case, triggers a response of “correct” or “wrong.” For example, the designation of  a piece by a recognized “artist” (e.g., Willem de Kooning) as “non-art” triggers a response of “wrong,” even if the piece looks much like some of the “non-art” images, which are called that because they happen to be the scribbles and dribbles of 4-year olds. A discerning viewer will select “non-art” for all ten images, for none of them is aesthetically excellent. On the other hand, a viewer who is anxious to conform to élite opinion will try to identify and label as “art” the four pieces by de Kooning and his ilk. (For more in this vein, see “Modernism in the Arts and Politics.”)

My observation of the “arts” in the modern age leads me to the following conclusions:

  • Taste is not dictated by élite opinion, which is more about exclusiveness than excellence.
  • Therefore, that which élite opinion designates as “art” is not necessarily art — and is likely to be its opposite.
  • In fact, most of the works of modern “artists” are mere artifacts, having no more relation to beauty than rusty tools, derelict boxcars, and abandoned buildings.
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