Denis Dutton’s Op-Ed in the New York Times condemning conceptual art to the ash heap of history because it does not contain skill and craftsmanship drew many approving comments across the Internet. Some thoughtful folks wrote in to the newspaper to poke a few holes in his argument:
Denis Dutton begins by condemning an entire genre on the basis of its noisiest, worst examples. (If I don’t like the work of Thomas Kinkade, do I have to dismiss landscapes, still lifes and representational paintings of houses?) From there, he segues into an appreciation of skill and finely honed craft. I, too, am a great admirer of skill, craft and beauty, but this does not preclude my getting something — something different perhaps — from the best conceptual art. And often the most powerful artwork is that which balances visceral sensory impact with intellectual content. I love seeing the hand of the maker, but the dichotomy of the hand and the head adds another level of complexity to the experience.
[W]hile it may be true, as Mr. Dutton claims, that artistic technique and craftsmanship help make it possible to “find beauty,” the technique and craftsmanship necessary to reproduce virtually exactly the work of, say, a Van Gogh sunflower will not create for the forgery anywhere near the “value” of the original, notwithstanding that few could distinguish between the two paintings were they hanging side by side. Owning the forgery is simply not the same as owning the original, and prestige, not “beauty,” accounts for much of the difference.
[O]ver the long run, the market values artists who are original for how they paint, rather than artists who are original for what they paint.
Love the Concept. But Is It Art? (NY Times)