the westminster news
Published by the students of Westminster School
By Johnathan Li ’24
It was a night at the Baxter Gallery; one finds themself walking into a room of compacted vacancies. Carefully placed beforehand, each creation — be it a craft, a clip of music or a painting — presents to you what they have to offer. It doesn’t take much reflection to discover the peculiarity of galleries, for it’s not a space of any purpose. One does not walk into a gallery to obtain any kind of substantial benefit, nor does one enter into such spaces for the sole purpose of leaving it; galleries are neither so transient as passages nor so stable as destinations, they contain art and art alone. When the agent enters this space, they have decided to venture into this odd junction between the self and the alien and in doing so, whether subconsciously or not, have made commentaries to the merits of the art before them.
How does art acquire its value? It is a question as old as time, and it would be bold to say that any elegant answer could be readily offered. Nonetheless, it is worth considering what prompted such inquiries in the first place. Indeed, the value of art pieces that are deemed to be strokes of genius is seldom questioned. Look into any classical painting or literature and one need not argue for its merit, for merely the fact that it still remains, either physically or metaphorically, under our modern gaze, is proof that it is to be regarded as an object with value. But this is not what one sees walking into Baxter, where what is being displayed is not what persists after temporal erasure, but what is simply temporarily given: present pieces to be seen at present times. It is a cruel fact that no one remembers what they have seen the day after. All have gone on with their lives, too busy to relive their engagements with the artworks that night, to listen once more to the surges of rhythms from a recorded instrument, to scrutinize a photograph from another angle, to touch the fabrics that weave the paint together again… The night has passed and isn't to be returned to.
Arts are temporal. Arts are to be forgotten. In an age of so referred to as “modernity,” art faces its fiercest controversy. A time at which in an exhibition one can find epic neoclassical works from painters such as Jacques-Louis David side by side with big chunky coloured blocks from Barnett Newman, it is easy to be cynical about what art has appeared to become: a wasteland where the esoteric, exclusive, and pretentious cabal of art appreciation has discouraged genuine creative enterprises and instead encourages incomprehensibly abstract canvases. Though not a pointless criticism, it is important to not overlook what art is. Art is the most fundamental unit of subjective value, for it acquires its value not by any other standards (such as money to be the unit of account) but simply by being. One becomes discontent when they see seemingly meaningless artworks being exhibited because in some way they feel that such art does not deserve the value it has been assigned, but then again, when the price tag beside it is removed, who is to say it has any value at all? It seems that the burden to appreciate art has contributed the most to the depreciation of art. We have walked into Baxter not to make statements about what is and isn’t art, but simply to inspect the inherent aesthetics of the myriads of forms.
Forget about the merits of art, for that would only render it meritless. Art is to be lived, not because it is an intellectual phrase to be uttered, but because it is the only way to experience art. Are we to consider that any trace of humankind would persist in the face of eternity? Over the course of a few hundred years, more would be recollected and forgotten, and such fruitless attempts to define art would once again be revolutionized into a new era of analysis. Yet such is not the potent power of art; it is the moments when something hidden catches your eye, when a local artist creates an astonishing work, when a crudely taken photograph reveals the most fascinating perspective you’ve ever seen… they too obtain value, and henceforth deserve to be called art.
Your comment will be posted after it is approved.
Leave a Reply.