Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Art Devotion

The tag line, "What Medieval Art Has That Contemporary Art Badly Needs" led me to a great commentary in the Atlantic Monthly.  Written by Andrew Baker in response to a less than inspiring visit to the Whitney Biennial, "The Cloisters: A Good Place to Start" compares the experience of viewing works by anonymous artisans and the exquisitely painted The Merode Altarpiece triptych by Robert Campin to works by several more "famous" artists many of us know and love, including Mark Rothko.  In sum, Baker suggests that "...devotion—more than talent, craft, inspiration, or even time—is what separates them from us."  In other words, instead of seeking fame and fortune, medieval artists likely cared more about the artwork itself, and they were devoted to the act of making something worth remembering.  If you're looking for something to read, I recommend this provocative article about artists' motivations as well as similarities and differences concerning what the historical and current art worlds might value most. 

1 comment:

Earl Grey said...

I appreciate the author's take on devotion and, especially, the perspective on the Merode Altarpiece. Seeing that triptych was one of my "swoon-worthy" moments in art--when I first laid eyes on it at The Cloisters. Well, okay, after the initial shock of its diminutive size wore off, I was swooning. 

Cortney, care to take a stab at his comments on Rothko?

It's refreshing to read an article at this point in the year, and, one that aims at criticism, in general, actually approach historic art making when much of the discussion and articles of late focus on contemporary art and lists, including those that we've posted by myself and others here, on this blog.

One comment, too, about the author's discussion of the notion of display. He writes, "He could have had no ambitions for museum exhibition. There was no such thing. The object he toiled over was not even meant for display. It had utility." I disagree with the comment that the work was not meant for "display" -- perhaps not in the typical sense, but definitely display in the sense of merely being on view in terms of its legacy and future through introduction to and activation of a particular space. The work has always been "on display" in my opinion.