Saturday, July 7, 2012

What is bad art? Who decides?

Do we know what bad art is?
Should individual reaction be more important than expert opinion? What is the criteria for good or bad art?  Should the price of the work determine the worth? Can a work be skillful, but bad?

During World War II when materials were difficult to obtain, Picasso bought paintings he disliked for the use of the canvass.  He then painted his own paintings over them.  Here we see him clowning with his friends in his studio, making fun of the traditional  "grand odalisque." Photo by Brassai. 

Thomas Kincaid, called the painter of light, sold much work, but he is generally regarded as bad painter.  When he died, his estate was worth $66 million. 

Abstract expressionist critic Clement Greenberg wrote about what is good and bad art.  His essays included  theories of avant guard and kitsch.  Kitsch art is the lowest form of art because it is contrived. 
"Kitsch, using for raw material the debased and academicized simulacra of genuine culture, welcomes and cultivates this insensibility. It is the source of its profits. Kitsch is mechanical and operates by formulas. Kitsch is vicarious experience and faked sensations. Kitsch changes according to style, but remains always the same. Kitsch is the epitome of all that is spurious in the life of our times. Kitsch pretends to demand nothing of its customers except their money -- not even their time." [

The Museum of Bad Art in Massachusetts is dedicated to bad art.  Although the museum's motto is "To bad to be ignored", most pieces do not get in the museum because they are "not bad enough.  The MOBA only collects work that people made in earnest, and works can not be boring. 
The shown picture is the museum's signature piece "Lucy in a Bed with Flowers."

More from Wiki: 
A "gut" Feeling of what is good and what is bad. 

The Museum of Bad Art has been used in academic studies as a standard of reference for the spectacularly awful. In one such study, published in " Perspectives on Psychology Science", researchers tested the consistency of responses between people asked to make "gut" judgments versus those who gave conscious well-reasoned responses regarding the quality of various pieces of art. The researchers showed respondents images from MOBA and New York's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), and asked them to rate each painting on a scale with two ends representing "Very Attractive" and "Very Unattractive". The study found that those who reasoned in conscious thought were neither more accurate nor as consistent in their ratings. Study participants identified and rated MoMA art higher quality, but those who used conscious reasoning did not find MoMA art more attractive than those who rated with "gut" judgments. Furthermore, the deliberators did not find MOBA art as unattractive as those with quicker response times. The study concluded that people who make quick judgments do so more consistently, with no significant change to accuracy

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