Am I an Art Bigot if I Don’t Like Most 20th Century Art?

By Steve Worthington in Misc > Art Opinion

Why do I hate so much of our 20th century visual art with such a passion?

I’m certainly not that way with music. I have everything from Mozart to the Sex Pistols on my iPod, and if I hear some awful music, I don’t rail against it. . . I just ignore it.

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But I really do hate so much 20th century art.

I’m talking about, of course, the really ridiculous stuff that gets thrust in your face but only leaves you scratching your head. Why does it get under my skin so much?

Every time I ponder that question I see the implication that I must be an art bigot or snob of some kind, yet at the same time I feel like I’m a pleasantly open-minded music appreciator.

So why am I not consistently open minded (or consistently vehemently apposed)in both cases?

I believe I know the answer.

It’s because the real musical equivalent of ridiculously bad post-modern “pretend” art is called atonal music, and it simply gets ignored. Just one listen is all it takes to turn you off it for good.

(This first dawned on me thanks to THIS ARTICLE—definitely worth a read.)

In that article, Spengler points out that the reason atonal music is not often played to audiences is because once it starts, you’re in for an aurally painful experience that you can’t quit. You can’t pretend to like it for a token 10 seconds, and then quickly wander off.

But with art, hanging in a gallery, you can.

And so the visual equivalent of atonal music—post-modern art—keeps getting pushed in our faces.

Imagine for a second, this alternative reality. . .

Let’s say that amazing music museums exist where you can go and experience live performances of any musical experience that the museum sees fit to exhibit, even if the performers, conductors and composers are all long dead.

Somehow (unlike a DVD) it would be exactly like the real thing. True virtual reality.

Let’s also say it costs a fortune for the museums to acquire the exhibits, and not only that, but your tax money is often used to buy them. And yet they insist on buying loads and loads of the atonal stuff—music carefully conceived to sound awful, with no identifiable rhythm, harmony, or tune—and they give you lengthy explanations of its genius, and how you must basically be a moron if you don’t want to come and experience it.

Let’s not forget, these curators and critics can’t play a note of anything themselves. . . but you still have to take their word for it that they know more about serious music than you do, even if you’re a musician.

No, make that especially if you’re a musician.

And if you kick up a stink, well what are you? Stupid? Everybody knows that if you’re truly serious about enjoying music, why, this atonal stuff is what you should really be focused on!

Oh, and of course the atonal authors are getting paid enormous amounts for their cacophony. Museums and collectors keep popping up in the news since they are paying such absurd sums to acquire it.

Not that any of it would live in your music collection, at least not on any playlists you actually listen to. No, the music you would listen to, made by competent musicians and bands and orchestras, is being marginalized and diminished in value in favor of this atonal stuff.

Their rare gifts and wonderful performances are being pushed aside and belittled, and in place of that, some person’s home-made recording of pots and pans being dropped on a mattress at random intervals is glorified and hailed as genius.

That’s a crazy alternate reality, right? Right??

And IF that reality were true, wouldn’t the usurped and outraged musicians, along with those who appreciate their music, rightfully become music bigots?

Personally. . . I think it would make perfectly good sense if they did.

Check out Steve’s blog or check out his website at SteveWorthingtonArt.com.

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