Ed Driscoll

"Art Without Beauty Is A Description Of Failed Art"

Asked to give a speech by The Harlem Studio of Art, Roger Kimball responded:

It was Andy Warhol, I think, who, when asked to define art, said that “Art is what you can get away with.” Warhol’s own career, and, indeed, a large part part of the contemporary art world testify to the power–if not the truth–of that observation. The sad fact is that today, anything can be not only be put forward but also and accepted and celebrated as a work of art. I won’t bother to rehearse examples: everyone here knows what I am talking about: Jeff Koons, Robert Mapplethore, Damien Hirst, Tracy Emin, Matthew Barney: the very names conjure up a cultural disaster zone.

The question is: How did did we get here? Well, that is a complicated question to which there is no short answer. But if one had to sum up volumes in a single word, a good candidate would be the word “beauty”: What the art world is lacking today is an allegiance to beauty.

I know that this is both vague and portentous. But surely we are in a very curious situation. Traditionally, the goal or end of fine art was to make beautiful objects. Beauty itself came with a lot of Platonic and Christian metaphysical baggage, some of it indifferent or even positively hostile to art. But art without beauty was, if not exactly a contradiction in terms, at least a description of failed art.

G.K. Chesterton is credited with saying, “When a man ceases to believe in God, he doesn’t believe in nothing. He believes in anything”. And (with notable exceptions) willing to create anything, and call it art, as well.

Read the rest of Kimball’s speech.