Op-Ed: Art (?) Basel

A telephone that recites poetry to you. Asian women smashing glass and sitting behind desks. A swastika made out of genitalia. I find it astonishing what art has become. Some call it refreshing. But to be refreshing, shouldn’t something be breaking from the norm and opening up discussions that are normally not had (or something like that)? Art, the likes that we see nowadays, has been used to make statements about sexuality, civil rights, and other “controversial” topics since the early twentieth-century. I want to know at what point it becomes irrelevant and dishonest to label works, which are quite frankly extraordinarily derivative, only pretending to bring new and controversial topics to the table. I want to know at what point such works are labeled “stale,” because I believe the modern art world is way beyond that point. To find an opposing view to my own, I thought I would have to look no further than Mr. Curley. Mr. Curley teaches AP Art History, a class which I took last year. He is very passionate about art, and speaks of modern art very highly. Lying at the top of his list of favorite painters is Mark Rothko, a man whose paintings are just large slabs of just one or two or three colors. I believed that Mr. Curley would tear apart my viewpoints, but I was surprised. He said, “I actually don’t disagree a ton with what you wrote, a lot of [art] being shocking for the sake of being shocking. [That] is a pretty weak way to make yourself known in the art world– if you have something that’s worth shocking someone about, [then you can], and historically there have been some great works to do that…but they are few and far between. I don’t think Art Basel is really an art exhibition so much as it is a wealth and status exhibition. Art has historically been very classist. The only way to be able to talk about art is to have enough free time to study art… and so it’s a whole bunch of these people getting together to pat themselves on the back about how rich they are more than the art.” Is Art Basel a celebration of art and its rich and ancient history, or is it a way for artists, art collectors, and art dealers to celebrate themselves for “being innovative,” “daring to dream,” and breaking the “rules”? I would say the latter is true. Is that a bad thing? No, but Art Basel should not be mistaken for and labeled as as THE major art event that everyone should be dying to go to because it contains everything; all kinds of art for everyone. It is fine, however, if you just want to see thousand dollar photographs of pools in the nighttime which, actually, does make a very nice photograph. 

By: David Gilinski (12th Grade)

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