Sunday, 28 September 2008

Art gains its value in execution

Cleaning up after Art, Tate Modern, September 2008
This is the after-effect of a giant-sized graffiti project displayed on the gallery's outer walls

Visiting Tate Modern for the first time at the weekend, I was struck by the amount of current art that can be classed as "conceptual". Back in the good old days, artists sketched out their ideas before committing paint to canvas or chisel to marble. There was a separation between idea and execution. Even composers worked along similar lines. It led to the great works of art that we all admire.

Skip forward a couple of generations and suddenly art seems to be all about the idea and less about the execution. Phooey to that, says I. So much of the newest works that I saw garnered the reaction: "nice idea, now how about a finished product". Works lost value in being, quite frankly, of low product quality. Non-traditional media were the worst offenders: collage, appliqué, film, photography. It seems painters and sculptors still care about craft, pity about the rest.

But is it Art?, Tate Britain, September 2008

Brings me back to the notion that the final product of photography is in the print. The craft of photography finds it's final outlet in a well-executed print.

On a side-note, Tate (Modern & Britain) do photography really poorly. The thematic placing of photographic work didn't fit, the analysis of content method seemed unaware of any sort of photographic history and worst of all were the descriptions of print methods ("black and white photograph on paper" is the equivalent of describing a great oil on canvas as "painting"). Come on, Tate, get it together.

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