Tuesday, February 28, 2006

World: Is art a fraud?

How would you feel if you found out your favourite art form was a fraud?

Okay, attention-grabber over. The story's more complex than that, of course.

Jackson Pollock's Blue Poles: "I've never liked it, although I've certainly tried". Is that how you feel about modern abstract impressionism in general? Of course, Blue Poles is the totem in Australia for this art movement, since it was bought by the government in 1973, causing predictable controversy.

The quote was from Michael Duffy in Saturday's SMH, about a 1999 book by Frances Stonor Saunders: Who Paid The Piper? The kernel of the story is that the CIA funded abstract impressionism, effectively making it fashionable, as a Cold War counter to Socialist Realism - a rather stodgy, retrogressive style. There's irony here in the right promoting a left-of-field movement, while the left was promoting the right.

This is not to deride the whole movement, but it makes you wonder about honesty in art, and art history. The article said the positive response to the book suggested the thesis was generally accepted by "those in a position to know". Tom Braden, who variously worked for the CIA and Museum of Modern Art said "it had to be done covertly... it would have been turned down if it had been put to a vote in a democracy".

What's you're reaction to this?
  • "A major work of investigative history" - Edward Said
  • "the contemptuous, leftist perspective" - Peter Coleman [editor of the rightwing Quadrant]
  • "There had to be a reason why something so infantile could become so celebrated" - Michael Fitzjames, painter.
Are you getting schadenfreude-like feelings of triumphalism over the cutdown of abstract impressionism? Are you indignant at any questioning of the integrity of any art? Why would CIA funding make it fraudulent per se? What is valid art, and what is not valid art? Is either of critical or mass acceptance crucial? What is art?

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