A question of art; Is the Audience of Art too Large?
What the devil artist up to. Very much I wouldn't pay to see it where it says Name go where I'm one tonight. Ask me artists nowadays are just too lazy to learn how to paint. Them in your comments. Well such observations have led us to try to reduce the confusion surrounding contemporary art as we ask a question of art. I'll let you know how hard each week at this time. A question about contemporary art will be discussed by an art critic a scholar and a skeptic. Here is a skeptic producer of the series Walt Richter. Do introduce the panelists we're going to have Lawrence out of the way. Art critic writer and lecturer on are distinct subjects. Dr. Gearhart Magnus professor of fine arts and Dr. Thomas W. Liman art historian at present members of the faculty of Southern Illinois University to address themselves to today's
question which is who makes the taste. And Tom Lyman is going to examine this and historical perspective the answer is fairly easy from a historical standpoint. Since most of the art produced in civilized. In the civilized world has been the handmaidens of power and influence and tastes have sprung from the choices and ideas of those who have patronized the arts of those who paid for it. Oh yes and as it was then. Well I think that would be clouding the issue it isn't a question of paying for it but of recognizing its need and those whose tastes are influenced by that need are ready to emulate and garner the prestige that goes with associating themselves and their
tastes with those who have determined it. Therefore we've had the DiMaggio family for example and Lawrence and the. Hope the religious hierarchy the political hierarchy these were the people who subsidize art and they did it on the basis of their own taste and as a result there was sort of a proliferation of this sort of thing which eventually became a common taste. Well perhaps not in their own taste the taste makers are not always the ones who decide what they like but those who are influential in influencing others after having been told what they like. I mean there are plenty of taste makers who don't have strong tastes but whose influence results in of forming forming tastes elsewhere in other words and the old days if I wanted to have my work accepted as being tasteful it would be in my interest to get someone who had a position of prestige and power to go along with my view of my own work and to spread this.
Yes I think that's right. Taste maker and and patron are not identical. Patron is patron because he patronises our taste maker as taste maker because the influence of the tastes of others. They go together but I frankly also Lymes and were in the same person I imagine. Yes I'm currently in the same person very many connoisseurs. No other words who were to serve as the patron in some capacity or other taking care of his collection perhaps advising him in his purchases he would be a taste maker then and would use a time in the sense that you that you meant it. Yes whoever recognizes why the patron should like this. This art is the one who is really responsible for spreading the taste. How does this work out in today's world that is there is there a parallel to this. LAWRENCE Well why not agree completely with what Gary say. I do think there was. A more
easily traceable cause and effect line perhaps in the past than there is at the present moment in taste making for instance I mean as Tang says. Power and influence was my all out and then man being a tastemaker behind the patron. But you know with exact enough is such you can find a cause and effect lines and the man with a taste to the artist that carries it out. I wonder if it hasn't got more complicated now and it's also hard to find precisely who creates the taste for what happens at one time. I think the situation is much more dispersed and overlapping one wouldn't you think. Yes I think it's less likely now that the taste would be spread for the same reasons that the work is produced or the work is purchased or commissioned the taste might be spread for entirely different reasons because it corresponds to
a market. It has nothing to do with the original motive of a collector or a patron ordering the work. Well last last week we talked about how bad an article and one of the points upon which we came to some agreement was the fact that the person who makes this judgement must have certain specifications or qualifications that he must be a knowledgeable person and that he must be sensitive to the past that he must know something of human experience. And I have studied and looked a good deal of art as this as this art tastemaker stores. I mean when I read of the temptation we run into a problem because we kind of talk about good taste and bad taste and different levels of taste. But and I don't know that we can get away from this problem if you want to try to answer the question. LAWRENCE Well I don't think that all the people we were talking about last week when you're talking about good and bad people
what we mean by tastemakers. To me a taste maker a somebody who is mediating between the artist who produces the work and the public who in one form or another consumes it consumes it by prejudicing and by. Going to exhibitions of it by reading it in magazines or by looking at it in general magazines. I think that between the public and the artist there are various people and these are the people I think what one means in the 20th century at least by now in the 20th century taste makers. But I'm there's a whole slew of these people more of them than people used to expect. Are you describing the art critic who also grade was sort of an intermediary between the artist and the public. Yeah I mean I'm a fan of the art critic has lots of company now because of ages and museums they
do not just rate the art of the past and administration curators and directors often intervene positively with you know showing artists they like to a large public. Not any of the museums but also I think the editors and the like the general magazines as well as the editors and writers and odd magazines come in and examine their taste. The trustees of museums often collectors and they have personal taste as collectors will come into. Museums and affect them. And if a museum decides to have an exhibition then all the art magazines have to review it and not mean that if it's if it's tracts not editorial interest general magazines will review it. So it seems to me we have museums specialized in general magazines and collectors all and joining the art
critic in his traditional role of mediating between the naked artwork and the uninstructed public. Well as I'm sorry I don't have to make a distinction really between those whose role is let's say a more passive in the sense that they create taste by selecting the things that are to be viewed and those who make taste by writing or publicizing are not always the same though in a gallery let's say they would be. That's another distinction I wanted to bring up and from what Lawrence said the difference between sophisticated taste of popular place that people are likely to read the art magazines to visit the galleries to read the critics are generally speaking of a different. I don't look than the people who get their view of art from the popular magazines that you've got as I said a sophisticated taste on the one hand and a popular taste of the other.
Again I don't know if we can divide them according to Jerry's comment just a moment ago in a difficult course I want to extreme you might have people like motel owners or part of a wholesale archive per there's other art objects and Art who who cater to this kind of demand who perpetuate a taste rather than making educated know yes or they simply buy up what's available and they couldn't care whether it's good or bad off. As long as it's inexpensive and lets say looks original. And I don't care if it's stolen from holiday in one new development which links the sophisticated magazine and the general magazine is that they're going to be writing about the same subject. I mean quite recently when AD Reinhardt had an exhibition at the Jewish Museum in New York. The articles about him in magazines and there were also a long article about
articles about him in the women's journals in the fashion journals and some of them were by our critics. When Bonnie Newman showed the Stations of the cause of the Guggenheim Museum he made it an international and in front of you so that you know the specialized knowledge is what I suppose is a very fine review. So I don't you think that both the specialized and the general. The public is getting new rules about the same events at the same time and this is a marked modification of the traditional position in art and heat. God did it use a tastemaker rather guarded his view and protected them. And they were at the service of a comparatively a select few a number of small number of people not the test America is reaching the mass audience instead of a small audience so that the elite is under
pressure. Well is that as a taste maker really judging art on its own on its own merits or is he seeking out things that will in some way be sensational but that will catch the public's imagination. You know I don't think I'm thinking I'm thinking of the time life Newsweek sort of coverage of Iraq. No you know I Time Life Newsweek kind of coverage of God is pretty good. I want to for instance the best the best ever published things on pot when Time magazine and the fast color plates when Life magazine the best some of the best one of the best articles about a recent batch of happenings in New York was in The Wall Street Journal. Much better than anything in the in the OP magazines Bonnett Newman himself wrote a piece about his own statement stations of the cross for all of magazine
you know so I think that the most intimation of the utmost seriousness is present in the general places was a specialized place that I'm going to agree that they have far more influence than all the art magazines and all the art collectors and all the museum curators put together when Time magazine dubbed part of art apart became immediately successful. It's also one of its national cover when I used to face a couple of weeks at here at the Metropolitan Museum and it's because you know nobody noticed. And when I was a tiny find the phrase and it didn't end when I made it to my time belongs to time and time. Historians will see it that way erroneous later because of the taste here here's your chance for you to rectify a possible future. But here is the taste maker himself not influenced by by someone I mean where part of the taste maker. Again where does he get the art editor of
Look magazine to get his notions I think there's an awful lot to do with personal associations don't you. You are more familiar with what goes on in New York than I am Lawrence but it would seem to me that the kind of editors Time magazine hires determines how ready and quickly how ready they are to pick up on something going. I think considering years ago Time magazine simply wasn't weathered and it wasn't setting any taste at it I mean we're all eager I think to look for origins for first causes. What was it that got our started I mean who made it continue to continue to grow. It could have happened that some of that who was the first up I mean papa who was the first pop artist learns. Well that's a complicated question. More Hope was one of us and yes he was all right. Most of us opposing warble had simply hated this stuff and nobody come around to see
it or the rock people. So somebody must somebody must have seen this and said this is this is worse of this is that it was a valid and have gone out to spread the word. Can we pick anybody like this down. It can happen by various people I think sometimes and often artists artists tell other people where there's an artist is doing. People I think sometimes never realize how how much artists back each other up in this way. I mean an artist will tell a critical recollect about another artist and this this person may tell that an editor and so it's noble very much as Tom says in terms of personal connections. Well do you suppose do you suppose that pacemaker has anything to do with the financial success of the artist. And I know that I said if someone goes off on you dance and painting or whatever the artistic area my medium might be and they find somebody who's willing to
pay good fat prices makes the newspaper newspapers and it becomes a status symbol to acquire a Wyeth or whatever it might be. I think the only way that might whack is that some collectors might gain prestige song The Assissi edition of The Artist. But there's nothing in it for the artist because as we degrade the artist paints his wax you know a hand for an unknown audience not knowing what what's destination will be. But there are collectors who are in favor of you know who have some collections I can discover by artists out there are such cases other collectors jump on the bandwagon and gain prestige from you know having current successes in their collection but I don't know I'm sorry what I would concentrating on the commercial or Evan seems to have overlooked what in but respect I think was a very influential tastemaker in the post-war years and that is education
not because educators are so revered but because students who were going to college in greater numbers than they did before associated the taste they picked up in the art classes or at appreciation classes with a certain standard of living. That was reinforced by Hugh Hefner and Playboy and people of that generation who for the first time in their lives had contact with art in any form of and created the market for the people we've been talking about. Well it's taste and expressed economically in terms of of the market in terms of our money whether or not an artist as well has his paintings. Laurus that's one of the measures but it would be a mistake to use that as the only measure either measure is the interest of other artists in that artist's work. Another one would be the amount of attention in magazines
count up the number of colored blogs their own kinds of quantitative tests that one can use but a financial test has really very little to do basically with quality. Jerry there isn't it. There is another aspect of the whole process of taste making that we haven't touched on that which seems to me supremely important in forming popular taste and that is Madison Avenue the mass communication media themselves. Don't forget that advertising agencies for instance employ professional art school graduates who are bald learn some art history. They've all studied modern art. They're all painters or sculptors or designers of one kind or another. And they get their ideas from from art. And so for
instance one year suddenly the shops are full of Mondrian inspired creations. Well then the larger public gets to know something about about Monday on one of our great modern with one of the classical figures of modern art. So this is a process by which let's say a good taste of suffers a sea change to be sure but that eventually arrives at a point where it's words opening the eyes of thousands of people and I think this is terribly important. Lord I just can say historical footnote what didn't even sound a lot. Give them a book on Monday on high for a Christmas present. And that's my guess and the idea is well let's just say I simply she did the same thing as it was to do what they said. It's somebody we both know as tasters Well I think a good deal of jaysus probably developed within the family without the family of the school
which was mentioned we've got the mass media. We then have the more sophisticated publications and institutions such as art galleries and museums and they all sort of looked into the national media given the coverage that they get one way and another galleries and museums have a mass media potential. Well how can how can we distinguish that and who haven't really come to grips with us at all in our previous programs between valid judgement as to terms of taste and fads in art. Or is there such a thing as a fad an art. Look Fat is a good word to describe the taste making. Whether a high or a low level looks like something out of a fad has a connotation of being very very temporary of quickly reaching a climax and then fading into oblivion if it achieves. Let's say it's the most prominent expression at any one moment and one of the
ephemeral arts like oh good then I suppose we might call it a fad. It's designed to last only a season. I'm not an excuse and you know what I'm not against. But I'd rather call it safe fashion and fad I guess. I'm not against it because most critics of a conservative. And once you've got your own hoop of artists you settle down and you know you identify your writing with them and you interpret them better than anyone else does because you know about them and said F or you're not very interested in fact you are often kind of hostile when new out comes along without the pressure of fashion. I would not pass a book magazine which was a first magazine to have that I think an awful lot by the way before any of the. Magazines did without the passion of fashion I think the art scene would be rather static left in the hands of critics. It would be a very slow moving out scene and everybody would be of the same age as
most of the critics like cracked on the back and held back and if it isn't thanks to the pressure of fashion the pressure of the mass media means younger painters get more attention and passing them for that. Our built in obsolescence you know the older generation doesn't have to commit how the young one comes on. So what is the chance to leave this moment and take a fresh attack. What does the role of the name of the artist have to do with dates times I remember reminded of the case of an artist with Holocaust amazement who during World War Two kept turning up. What was what was the artist name of America they find in trunks and so forth and he even stung the Rykes museum and Amsterdam with by charging him a huge fee for a painting they were afraid that the Germans
would get if they didn't pay it. I saw these paintings on display at one time opposite the real power of America and through the color it was the same but the execution was was very very crude and yet and yet people were fooled. I mean how how can people check out their tastes and aren't they inclined to be a little bit impressed by the name of the artist who has achieved fame and fortune. As well as he has and that was engendered by the Europeans paintings was largely due to the wishful thinking of art historians who like people whose tastes are made through fads were carried away with the CEOs of them were able to begin to have the cleverness to his paintings to fit into a chronological sequence that would make sense and I'm not and I'm not but when he finally got the standard to get all this praise being heaped on for merit he admitted that he had hated these things.
They locked him up in jail they died in prison. Somebody had to write his debt down to get it didn't take long for someone to find out and you know he you know admitted it but I think it would have become undone. Sadly some I given the standards of modern scholarship have been the thing that's interesting about it I think as a vet met her then painted the pictures which art historians thought must exist somewhere I didn't think they had thought they had postulated a moment just stayed on and there's no European and he did the things they were waiting for. Right if they were there it was a built in taste for them writing to the Tory taste but that's different than the kind of taste we've been talking about here as in gender services so the example wasn't a good one. But let me let me let me because my repos my question Striking up the example how much does the reputation of an artist have to do with the development of public of popular taste. Very sophisticated I think it's enormous and goes back to what I said at the beginning I think
ultimately taste is is based on prestige honest charisma courage charismatic value of what the work is associated with. Yes I would agree that if I saw or if I saw a painting which I didn't like the look of it and then I realized it was my bonnet Newman with the American living American and I think I must have. I haven't realized that I was missing something and I would go back to look at again. It's not that the name is overwhelming me but that the name is a touchstone to me Jerry. Yes I would agree this is terribly important. We are we're all interested in personalities and in this whole mysterious process of genius in any field and so there are an awful lot of people who who must reach apart through personality. And since this is so this
element in taste making is terribly important. The reason I like the word fat is because that in my mind speaks enthusiasm and I think it's impossible to form any kind of taste unless people are subjected to moments of great enthusiasm. It may be tragic but the perpetual result of a succession of fads is permanent that is the cumulative effect of being excited about Jojo's Topps blooms and so forth affects the way people like things later on. OK we're running out of time let me ask if you have any particular point you would like to make about this matter of the tastemakers. LAWRENCE Well I don't own it but I think that what had what we now have is a situation where taste does not want to belong to any lead that is is bread. Why you know why demand people than in the past and I will have direct contact with a mass audience and I think it's going to change.
Oh Jerry. Well I was thinking again finally of the of the role of the influential critic who get what you can who can exert a this charismatic force or have this kind of influence. Just as a big name artist can particularly someone let's say like Ruskin who dictated the taste of of several generations of Englishmen and collectors. Well our time has run out on us again. Next week we'll be back with another question that will be the last in our series of programs and whichever question is we formulate we hope will give us some sort of review as to what we are talking about when we talk about art modern art and taste.
- A question of art
- Producing Organization
- WSIU 8 (Television station : Carbondale, Ill.)
- Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
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- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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- For series info, see Item 3338. This prog.: Is the Audience of Art Becoming too Large?
- Fine Arts
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Producing Organization: WSIU 8 (Television station : Carbondale, Ill.)
Producing Organization: Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-16-12 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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- MLA: “A question of art; Is the Audience of Art too Large?.” 1968-04-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 16, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-f766805z>.
- APA: A question of art; Is the Audience of Art too Large?. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-f766805z