Considering the inappropriate bias towards contemporary modern art

Considering the inappropriate bias towards contemporary modern art

by Charles Harris
article from Monday 14, November, 2016

WITH THIS article I will try to explore that narrow destructive bias towards contemporary modern art without any traditional values and the blind support it has received from our modern media throughout the 20th century and into the present.

Had this subject been politic, then one can imagine every aspect would have been carefully considered, every view presented, ugly or otherwise, to the smallest degree; tragically for us all, however, this apparent accepted view in favour of contemporary modern art still continues unchallenged today.

This is a subject without cheer. It involves some of the worst aspects of modernism, with ugliness, cynicism, contempt, or greed; and where according to the acknowledged handbook for conceptual art, the very best cutting edge art ideas all occurred before 1920. Which, quite apart from that acclaimed urinal presented as a work of art, these included canned human excrement, and the locking of an empty room with a padlock and chain, then advertising this as an exhibition. 

It seems all so ridiculous for words and sanity, yet extraordinarily, little appears to have changed since. For, based upon what is continuously presented as art, and from what we have all seen and heard, one must conclude our media do not understand this matter – nor what is being lost for art and the lost benefits for everybody accordingly. Instead, they seem to have adopted a fantasy role of gate keepers, the protectors of imaginary non-existent stock for 20th century modern art to pretend to play around with.

Unfortunately this does amount to a degree of practical blindness, without appearing to be able to consider a true reality in this ridiculous situation, or sadly understand the need for an immediate cure. As an example, a while ago I was asked by a newspaper to review an exhibition of conceptual art in one of our national contemporary art centres. 

At this event the curator pointed out an apparent exhibit of empty jam jars hanging from the ceiling and said, “They have already been reviewed as moving!” Looking up I said, “The only moving which can occur is if somebody opens a door and there is a draft.”                                

The journalist and the photographer assigned to me for this feature were unable to see the evidence hanging in front of them and unfortunately imagined there must be something else, something they were missing? Whereas like many others, I thought the only thing missing was common sense? For, sadly, the media gatekeepers have blindly continued to provide support for an illusion, and one that unjustly benefits an elite minority. These are people who have no interest in the values of genuine Art, but are simply business types exploiting an opportunity without conscience. 

Whilst for all tax and ratepayers, the reality and concerns that these questionable art forms are still constantly funded with public money can never, it seems, be publically considered by our media. Nor are the values of the products themselves presented by today's conceptual artists ever questioned, or passed to Audit Scotland for a closer examination to determine if they offer true appropriate value with public money. So what happens now if you think these processes are undemocratic, these commissions which have little or no unbiased public professional involvement, nor proper representation for choice, and are so inappropriate and wrong? Unfortunately, nothing, is the answer today.

I expect the next question you may ask is – how did this mess occur?                                     

Unfortunately, again, this is not a pretty story. Last time I explained how the foolish idea of modern art happened at the beginning of the 20th century and the price we now all pay for this stupidity. This time we must look back to the 1950’s-60’s and that important book published by a whistle-blowing author, who revealed how a group of leading International galleries colluded to persuade the media through newspapers, magazines, television and radio to offer glowing articles, interviews, reviews, and long radio or television features, to happily promote and favourably present the benefits of cheap worthless modern art at that time. 

Sadly, this miserable business gravy train has continued unchecked and unquestioned to the present. It was in full swing when I began my career at the Royal Academy in London. I recall two modernist students who were seldom seen in the studios. They seemed to do little work. They won no prizes, but appeared to spend all their time on the telephone making business, marketing and networking calls. 

Unfortunately I also believe it was about fifteen years ago when our pro-modern Arts Councils in Britain introduced a scheme of paying, or part-paying the wages of officers to attach themselves to local Councils across the UK, to encourage those Councils to fund the setting up of both Contemporary Art Centres, or the commissioning of new Public Art – or both. Naturally, these people were also pro-modern in their choices and the public artwork chosen would reflect their involvement or vested interest with modern contemporary art. For those involved this scheme was of course considered the smartest of moves, for it gave power and influence at both ends of the modern art tree. 

Afterwards at the top we saw the purchasing of Conceptual Art costing millions of pounds, apparently for the National collection at the Tate Gallery. We also saw the building, formation, and the collection of Tate Modern. Whilst at the lower financial end, we saw  administrators employed in any art-related area, always expected to show a bias towards modern art, or conceptual art, in whatever jobs available, whether they agreed or not. 

It stretches belief to consider this nightmarish black hole for art and culture continues unquestioned today in the 21st century. With all the incredible advances in technology and social improvement, especially now with consumer fashion where we have seen a returning need for new traditional products, ideas and proper conventional values, e.g – in wood furniture advertising I quote, “There’s no veneer in ‘ere!”                                                                         

So artistically, what inappropriate travesties have we recently seen endeavouring to corrupt the beauty of our past art world by pretending to still be art and what is the affect? I know this year we all heard covered by the media, a total idiot peeing in the snow and calling it art. And while we don’t have to take account of a total idiot, the shysters pretending to take this seriously are a different matter.     

To address this we need reform. We need a new fair and even-handed approach to art in the future for everybody. We definitely need people who have the proven practical basic skills and knowledge today, with a long term experience in art, to make new real human decisions for our art, not just today’s bias modern art experts in storytelling and flannel. The days of reality-hating modernists are surely past, for we do also need that sight of reality and tradition today, and the values of beauty again in a conventional manner, for our happiness, future and the lives of everybody in the 21st century.

Photo: Charles takes his Classical art seriously, and here he is painting high up in the mountains on Gran Sasso d'Italia.

(Copyright Charles Harris 2016, ‘Trust Your Heart the Validity of Contemporary painting.)            

Next time Life in Smart Cities, or the Country, and the great Art we can encourage instead.


ThinkScotland exists thanks to readers' support - please donate in any currency and often

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter & like and share this article
To comment on this article please go to our facebook page