Thursday, November 16, 2006

Worth Ten Minutes......

I don't always agree with the man, but Walter Darby Bannard wrote a great piece called The Art Glut, originally published in Arts Magazine in December of 1986, though it seems even more true today. Thanks to Franklin Einspruch for creating the archive of Darby's writings, and for calling this particular piece to my attention in his own blog,

Here's just an excerpt, in case you're not convinced:

"Now, history tells us that the fashionable art of a time is never the best art of a time. It tells us that the best new art is always pushed into the background by second-rate, fashionable new art...Today's fashionable new art, like yesterday's, is second-rate, middlebrow art. New highbrow art cannot be fashionable because there are not enough highbrows, especially rich highbrows, to make it fashionable. Besides, highbrow taste goes by what it likes. It is personal and private. It doesn't look around to see what's "in." It doesn't make fashion, except in the long run. Highbrow art must win out over time by the peculiar staying power of artistic goodness.

Highbrow taste goes for pleasure; middlebrow taste goes for prestige. Highbrow taste can be "wrong" but it doesn't get suckered because it likes what it likes. Middlebrow taste insists on being "right" and always gets suckered because it either pretends to like what it doesn't like or is led into liking what isn't worth liking. The highbrow uses personal taste like a sense organ, to locate a source of esthetic pleasure. The middlebrow mistrusts personal taste and suppresses it in favor of the fashionable, which by its nature can be identified and labelled. The highbrow wants the experience of taste in action to be clean, simple, and straightforward. The middlebrow puts "importance" ahead of experience and fortifies his choice with "meaning" and "signifigance." Highbrow taste is always repelled by aggressively bad art...Middlebrow taste, blind and insecure, thinks history tells us that good new art is always "disturbing" and "outrageous," so it goes for aggressively bad new art."


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