Contemporary Art — perhaps better called ‘today’s art’, because all art is ‘contemporary’ at the time it is made, is shit. It has been shit for a long time; but it is not getting any better at all.
Towering over the carnage that is all that remains of gallery art in the West is the pixie figure of Marcel Duchamp. You may never have heard of him, but that doesn’t mean he was not important. For many, Marcel Duchamp was the most important artist of the twentieth century.
Now I am going to show my colours here; I have a Master’s Degree in Fine Art. And I have spent my life as a practising artist, in various media. So I am both academically and professionally interested in this.
So with that out of the way, why is ‘Contemporary Art’ so bad? And who the hell was Marcel Duchamp? The story is long, so bear with me.
The unique mechanism by which photography distinguishes itself from every other visual art is something I call reflex-reflection.
Photography, although shunned by the establishment in its infancy, became the quintessential, defining art of the twentieth century.
This was not simply because photography’s roots were in the five decades immediately preceding the year 1900, nor that it blossomed, came to maturity and ultimately transformed with the ageing of the century itself.
Contemporary gallery art is a very expensive, publicly-funded white elephant, a crutch of the elite. To call today’s art education, which feeds the galleries with an unending supply of this visual tripe, a catastrophic disaster, would be an understatement. It’s time we stopped pandering to its promoters.
Today we live in a West where multiculturalism has all but made us forget that Post-Renaissance European culture is what shaped the world. Everywhere, people learn English. In India, Urdu is dying because students are taught in English.
Yet language is not alone amongst our triumphs. Alongside our technological and scientific prowess there is another pillar of our culture: our art.
Last week I visited Bataan, here in the Philippines, for the first time. I was amazed by the scenery, which is remarkable; beautiful mountains, beaches and sea views, amongst everything else. What a richness this country has! Anyway, the highlight of the tour was when an old friend suggested going to Las Casas de Acuzar at Bagac.
Bagac is south of Olongapo on Subic Bay and is accessible by bus. Once again, the scenery en route is spectacular.
I was expecting a beach and maybe a nice old village — my friend and guide, Belgie, said ‘There are old houses’. I wasn’t even slightly prepared for what I saw.