Is the Art World Real­ly Dull?

Magazin'Art - - Editorial - Noel Meyer

The place and im­por­tance of art in the world is al­most al­ways up for grabs. Most people have a ten­den­cy to ignore art com­ple­te­ly. Po­li­ti­cians fre­quent­ly see art as a conve­nient whip­ping boy when cri­ti­ci­sing pu­blic spen­ding and they fre­quent­ly have just cause.

Just think about the recent de­ci­sion in Mon­treal to spend $3.75 mil­lion pla­cing "gra­nite stumps” around Mount Royal, so that people can sit on them. Most Mon­trea­lers blink and won­der how the ci­ty can af­ford to waste so much mo­ney when it can't re­pair the po­tholes on ci­ty streets.

Those who tend to think about art a bit more of­ten pro­ba­bly won­der why the ci­ty is so bent on des­troying the un­der­lying na­ture of Mount Royal which was fa­mous­ly de­si­gned by one of the pre­mier land­scape ar­chi­tects of his times, Fre­de­rick Law Olm­stead.

Aside from the contro­ver­sy cau­sed by the Na­tio­nal Gal­le­ry's pur­chase of Bar­nett New­man's Voice of Fire in the 1990's, art doesn't usual­ly raise any great num­ber of head­lines and if it does, they tend to qui­ck­ly sub­side.

Most people have a li­mi­ted conscious in­vol­ve­ment with art. They don't go to gal­le­ries brow­sing for that per­fect piece and they don't go to mu­seums.

Ins­tead they have a ten­den­cy to think art is dull. They can't un­ders­tand mo­dern art and when they do un­ders­tand that so­me­thing like Abs­tract Ex­pres­sio­nism is real­ly all about the in­ner emo­tio­nal life of the in­di­vi­dual ar­tist they pro­ba­bly still ask them­selves, "Why is it so ugly?”

Art, af­ter all, is a sub­ject that is ba­re­ly taught any­more. Against this ba­ck­drop it will come as a sur­prise to ma­ny that the world of art is ac­tual­ly ex­ci­ting.

Eve­ry year pieces of art that were thought lost are re­dis­co­ve­red, han­ging on a back door in some re­mote vil­lage or in a flea mar­ket and that leads us to the recent case of van Gogh's missing no­te­book.

In­ter­na­tio­nal van Gogh ex­pert Bo­go­mi­la Welsh-ov­cha­rov be­lieves she has found a lost van Gogh no­te­book and it has been pu­bli­shed in En­glish as Vincent van Gogh: The Lost Arles Sketch­book, by the pres­ti­gious New York art pu­bli­sher Abrams. The no­te­books are made up of 65 sketches which are most­ly ru­ral and land­scapes but which al­so in­cludes one self-por­trait.

Welsh-ov­cha­rov was as­ked to look at the no­te­book when she was staying near Arles in 2013. The no­te­book and the re­sul­ting book re­present a cer­tain amount of mo­ney, the book is re­tai­ling at $105.00 for ins­tance and who knows how much the sketch­book it­self would bring at auc­tion.

Meanw­hile the Dutch Van Gogh Mu­seum has is­sued a sta­te­ment sta­ting that the mu­seum does not be­lieve the work to be au­then­tic. Some of the grounds fuel­ling its dis­be­lief in­clude the type of ink used and a lack of ar­tis­tic in­ten­si­ty as well as a dis­pu­ted pro­ve­nance.

The sketches are done in a brown ink and the mu­seum says that van Gogh al­ways used black ink that fa­ded to brown with time. The work as a whole is not of the same ca­libre as van Gogh's known can­non. The self-por­trait, they say is soul­less.

And then there is the ques­tion of where did the sketch­book come from. In Welsh-ov­cha­rov's ver­sion of events the sketch­book was re­tur­ned to the cafe in Arles that van Gogh li­ved next to and this can be seen in the cafe's dia­ry as being re­tur­ned along with some to­wels and a bo­wel.

In the mu­seum's ver­sion of events the cafe has al­rea­dy si­gned an in­ven­to­ry of van Gogh's work which sho­wed they ne­ver re­cei­ved said sketch­book.

Welsh-ov­cha­rov may have the up­per hand in this when she said du­ring a CBC in­ter­view that the Van Gogh Mu­seum has ba­sed their de­ci­sion so­le­ly by exa­mi­ning pho­to­graphs of the sketch­book, wi­thout ha­ving seen the "real” thing.

Now if that doesn't convince you that the art world can at times be ve­ry ex­ci­ting in­deed let me tell you about the theo­ry that Abs­tract Ex­pres­sio­nism, that art mo­ve­ment which shif­ted the centre of the art world from Pa­ris to New York was ac­tual­ly a CIA cold war plot de­si­gned to dis­com­fort and un­der­mine com­mu­nist Rus­sia by show­ca­sing how much in­di­vi­dual free­dom exis­ted in the west. Life doesn't get bet­ter than this.

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