A Reply To A Question

18th July 2011

The following question was posed through a comment on one of my earlier posts: –

‘Where does your statement ‘art in and of itself must be able to appeal to a mass audience on it’s own merits and not require interpretation to be considered art’ take you? Do you think a photograph on page three of the Sun is art?’

My reply was that, YES, a photograph on page 3 of the Sun is art.  But I then really had to wonder WHY? So I decided to do some reading around the subject.

It certainly appeals to a mass audience, undoubtedly all male, but does that make it less worthy?  A lot more of those photographs, and similar, are hung up for repeated viewing than any by who I was criticising, Diane Arbus, but does that make it art?  Not necessarily as the nude in art wasn’t originally formed to provide titillation, which the page 3 girls do whether intended or not, nor does it preclude it from being art either simply because of its erotic possibilities.  A lot of Victorian, female nude art was commissioned  to provide eroticism and titillation by frustrated wealthy men, albeit to be kept private because of public moral attitudes of the time.  Take Rodin’s ‘The Kiss’, now a treasure, Warrens copy was originally relegated to a stable because “A number of puritanical local residents, led by headmistress Miss Fowler-Tutt, objected to the erotic nature of the sculpture. They were particularly concerned that it might encourage the ardour of the large number of soldiers who were billeted in the town at that time…”.  However, Warren himself was homosexual and specifically contracted Rodin to ensure  “the genitals of the man must be complete.”another form of eroticism.

So, if titillation and eroticism preclude an image from being art then ‘The Kiss’ isn’t art, in the strictest sense.  If however those two qualities do not preclude it from being art, then images on page 3 can be considered art, but are they?

I would still argue yes they are.  They may not have much merit, but that doesn’t make them any less artistic because of it.  Merit has nothing to do with artistic acceptance.  Acceptance comes from the people, albeit only 50% of the population, and therefore probably not as worthy, but then there’s always the case of Rodin’s ‘The Kiss’!  The art critics would undoubtedly condemn page 3 images as trash and not worthy of the title ‘art’, but their mass appeal makes them art, especially when hung up for regular viewing.  Time will tell whether they’re truly art, will they stand the test of time?  I doubt it, but then that only makes them ‘popular art’ and popularity comes and goes with changing public morals and opinions.  So for the moment I’d say yes they’re art, purely due to popularity.

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