Saturday, September 15, 2012

Souren Melikian on PC Kitsch . . .

(Late 19th Century Kitsch)
Antonio Frilli
Photo from Southby's

Souren Melikian, in "The Impoverished Connoisseurs" (NYT, September 12, 2012), offers an intriguing observation:
In the museum world, the academic approach now prevails over visual appreciation. This in turn has helped spread the political correctness that would have us believe that all art deserves equal consideration. It has revolutionized the scale of values and sent soaring sky-high the prices of works once dismissed as derivative or kitsch. In the Sotheby's July sale, a marble group of "The Three Graces Crowning Venus" carved by Antonio Frilli in the late 19th century brought £109,250, less than hoped for, but a stupendous price for an interpretation of a model conceived decades earlier by Antonio Canova.
Melikian argues that collectors had more taste and judgment back in the fifties and early sixties, before big money and an absence of standards came to dominate the art scene, and he concludes on a pessimistic note:
With the transformation of art buying into a money-churning mill, and its consequences, an essential part of the Western living culture has been lost.
I haven't included all the details of Melikian's critique, but it's rather persuasive, though he says too little about the role of academic critics. While there are exceptions, many academics refuse to judge, possibly for fear of being attacked as "judgmental"! We therefore get kitsch promoted as art. Rather than offer judgment, academic critics speak of 'influence' because they can always trace that and defend it by comparing two visible artworks, whereas aesthetic values are invisible.

This is the postmodern Western world of political correctness, a type of relativism that pervades everything, insists on 'multicultural' tolerance, and refuses to render judgment.

Incidentally, I see only two Graces crowning Venus . . .

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At 5:06 AM, Blogger ilTassista Marino said...

In Perugia (here) the Art Academy Museum re-opened just some weeks ago, after the earthquake damages in 1997. There is a "true copy" of Canova's Three Graces, i.e. made by him himself for the Art Academy, back then. It may be kitsch somehow, but to have it in front of one's eyes, and see its perfection, etc. --- wow

At 6:45 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I think Melikian intended to imply that the original by Canova was not kitsch, and that implication would likely extend to copies that Canova himself made.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:19 PM, Blogger ilTassista Marino said...

Oh, yes, but Neoclassical Art is considered kitsch "in se" by several contemporary critics.

At 2:49 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Ah, I see. I didn't know that.

Jeffery Hodges

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