Is modern art pointless?

Sometimes modern and contemporary art can seem meaningless and laughable. But, let's suppose it is. Let's suppose an individual artwork is ugly, or baffling to you, the viewer. Much of it is. But looking at it from an economic viewpoint, there is a huge amount of money changing hands in the artworld. The Venice Bienalle is on at the moment - it's like the Eurovision song contest for art. Many countries have a pavilion in the Venice public gardens, and each display one artist or a group of artists from their countries. If the country wins the Grand Jury prize for its display, it means lots of publicity for the artists and the country itself. Those artists will probably sell the work in the display, and go on to sell many more because they have been given the award. And artists often have assistants - Phillida Barlow, who represented Great Britain this year had six or seven assistants to work on her show for several months prior to it going up - that's quite a lot of people being employed just in her studio, then the gallery who represents her has its own staff, the PR company that represents the gallery has its staff too - the art world employs many people. Quite apart from that, art itself can be ugly, but it can also be wonderful, and speak to you in ways that no TV program, film, or other experience can. Modern art is definitely not pointless.

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Love it or hate it, many people have strong opinions on modern art. To some, it’s a way of expressing ideas in original and thought-provoking ways; to others, it’s not really “art”... it’s more of an excuse to make money from arranging ordinary objects on a table and naming the installation “life.

Modern art seems to be somewhat “cool” nowadays, with galleries popping up in cities all over the world. I’ve been to a number of modern art museums on family holidays, there’s something I quite enjoy about looking at the weird sculptures. Admittedly, maybe I just like it because I want to like it, but sometimes the exhibits are actually really cool. I’m not saying that I think particularly hard about the abstract meanings behind the bedazzled skull or shark suspended in a glass box (yep, it was a Damien Hirst exhibition), but they’re still arguably more interesting to look at than medieval paintings.

Maybe it’s the fact that modern art stirs some kind of feeling within you that makes it worthwhile and important. Modern art does raise the interesting question: what constitutes art? Some say poetry, ballet, music... others say any kind of self-expression. Others would automatically think of the classical painters: Michelangelo, Da Vinci and Raphael. Whatever your definition, I guess it’s just good that people are going to galleries and coming out with strong opinions in a world where it’s so easy to waste your day on the Internet. It helps when the gallery or museum is free though, that’s for sure.

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Modern art is many things. It can be striking, ambiguous, banal, challenging, self-indulgent, thought-provoking, poignant, and indeed as many other labels as the human imagination is able to conjure. One thing it is not is pointless.

Art often works at one of two levels (although there are many more.) At its simplest it presents the world as it actually is. The purest form of this expression would be photography. Some artists choose to reproduce a landscape or a portrait exactly as it appears to them. On the other hand, art is sometimes merely an interpretation of what the artist sees. This is where the message can be distorted via the use of colours to represent moods, or the portrait can become an abstract version (an obvious example of this would be Picasso's later works.)

Carl Andre's Article VIII was mired in controversy when the sculpture was first revealed at London's Tate Gallery in 1972. The gallery had bought the piece for £2,297, although detractors noted that it seemed to be a pile of bricks. But this 'pile of bricks' has since become an iconic piece of modern art, imbued with meaning far beyond its physical structure. According to the Tate curators, this was the whole point. Andre's work celebrates the unassuming beauty in everyday objects, from masonry to balconies to the tranquil surface of a lake. Just because the artistic merit of a subject is subtle, or open to individual interpretation, in no way means it is any less relevant than something more obvious, like one of Titian's lurid mythological studies.

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NO IT HAS ITS PLACE

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NO IT HAS ITS PLACE

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NO IT HAS ITS PLACE

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NO IT HAS ITS PLACE

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Yes.

This is a piece of art

In all seriousness all such values and opinions have been offered over time as the 'new guard' tries to change things.

This really is a valuable piece of modern art though

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Modern art has meant the Tom Ford film Nocturnal Animals, which is about God not having the ability to fool reality into thinking it is God; art now has the ability to be more impressive than ever

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