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January 04, 2006

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When will the DVD be available?

as soon as they can museums that let them do this work out the royalty agreement.

or, in English, as soon as the museums that let them do this work out the royalty agreement.

Are you opposed to books showing these works too?

Or is it simply how the project is being marketed?

"This project accomplishes nothing...NOTHING...toward letting millions of people all over the world see any masterpiece. The attendees are not "seeing" a single "masterpiece." They're looking at posters."

This seems a little harsh. Of course nothing is comparable to seeing the real thing in as near as original state as possible. But for most people, as you said, that is not possible.

Don't get me wrong. I am not in favor of replacing orginal works of art with digital recreations any more than I would be in favor of replacing seeing the artic wilderness with photographs in a cold windy room. But, I do not see the reason for outrage.

Will,

My objection is the lowering of the standard for actually viewing work in a museum setting. There are other contexts in which this would be very interesting/entertaining (like the book you suggest). It just doesn't belong installed, with lighting and full-sized replicas etc. as we generally install the actual works. It's a confusing message. Again, the organizers pay lip service to ensuring the public understands the difference, but then the catalog essay is so beyond sloppy about implying the project is geared toward letting the public "see the masterpieces." It's an incredibly important distinction.

Listening to a live recording on CD is NOT seeing a concert in person and standing before a poster is NOT seeing a masterpiece, no matter how high the resolution is. The catalog is false advertising.

More than all that, though, the pilgramage to a work of art is an important part of the overall experience, in my opinion. The context in which it ends up tells us as much about who and what we are as humans as the actual image.

Will: The thing is, if they'd said "This is a collection of posters of great art, at high resolution and at the size of the originals, so that you can see some of what the originals look like", I doubt Edward would have had a lot of complaint. It's the deliberate downplaying of the very great differences between even an extraordinary good photo and the real thing that makes it huckstering.

I used to think that this was a bit exaggerated until I had a chance to see a touring collection of Yoshitoshi's print series "One Hundred Aspects of the Moon". Photos of some of them are available at original size and even larger in very fine art books, which I read beforehand...and I was still blown away with discoveries. Because you see, Yoshitoshi didn't just press ink into paper. He embossed the paper and took advantage of the new textures for highlighting and narrative emphasis of different kinds. In one of the prints, a cat's whiskers take on a silver quality from some angles but not others; the moon sometimes seems to float above the paper in some images; and so on. A photo from any single angle literally can't capture all of that - they're made to be seen with the viewer turning their head, walking around it a bit, and so on.

Since then I've been more sensitive to issues of three-dimensional features in basically two-dimensional work. An exhibit of posters could begin to hint at some of this, with well-chosen multiple exposures from various angles, but it would still at best add up to "...and here's some of what you miss because of the fixed viewpoint."

I actively, strongly approve of high-resolution back-up copies of fine art, and I approve a lot of showing them to the public who may have trouble ever seeing the originals. But it's important for the exhibitors to be clear on the differences between what they're showing and the originals, and not to mislead the public about it.

Edward:

I do have any expertise in the art world.

But, why does the pilgramage to an orginal work to see the "context in which it ends up" matter? Isnt that a construct of someone other than the artist?

I certainly agree that a CD of a live performance is not the same as a live performance. But aren't you assuming that the consumers are not smart enough to know the difference?

How would you fix this exhibit? Do you insert more explicit warnings: "NOT A MASTERPIECE - REPLICA!"?

If you are suggesting that this exhibit never take place, arent you reducing the possibility that someone seeing this exhibit might take the pilgramage that you propose?

Re-reading what I wrote:

Please do not get me wrong. I agree that the original is almost always better than a reproduction. Bruce Baugh's print example is a wonderful example of the difference between an orginal and a replica.

I'm skeptical of the importance of pilgrimages myself, but then that's partly disability speaking: I can't make them. I'm willing to acknowledge the skew of handicap here.

Will, there's actually a big literature on curatorship, which shades into general pedagogy, architecture, sociology, and a bunch else. I'm not up on all of it myself. But there are ways of presenting really cool copies as really cool copies without inflated claims about how close this gets yout o the originals. It's a challenge, but it's also the sort of challenge a lot of good folks have worked on hard for a long time.

Not to mention that 99% of the world can't travel to see those masterpieces in their original settings; that those who can, most will never be able to see *all* of them (let alone buy one); that a good replica, let alone a good full-size print, of a painting is something incredibly rare - none of the ones of old masters you buy in the print sections of museums are, most of them are made off 50+ year old litho separations, uncleaned and muddy and poorly-separated and poorly-printed - and by doing this, the standard of reproduction demanded by audiences in the future will be made much higher; and perhaps above all, the interest in a much wider part of the populace than ever before feasible aroused *in* art and art history, leading to foreseeably greater support for a national culture of the arts rather than dismissing it as meaningless elite frippery unimportant to the lives of ordinary Americans.

--Speaking as someone who has a) spent a great deal of time in US art museums, b) been lucky enough to visit - once! - the National Gallery in London and the Vatican Museums, in my life, and to see some of those Caravaggios in often-wretchedly-lighted situ - and c) as a graphic artist and prepress person, an *extreme* amount of pain and anguish over the loss of data in print reproduction technology. And who has also spent a lot of time trying to get other people interested in art/history, which is made *very* difficult when you can only find a smudgy postage-stamp in an old art book and you have to tell them "imagine the glowing cobalt blue, it's almost 3-D".

But then there were people who opposed the idea of culture for "the common people" back a hundred years ago and more, when things like lending libraries and public museums making art and science accessible for more than a tiny slice of the moneyed aristocracy were themselves condemned as coarsening...

Bruce Baugh:

I wish that these comments had an edit function. Edward clearly titled this post "What Does it Mean to "See" A Masterpiece?". I agree with him that a copy is not the masterpiece. Perhaps my comments were focused on my perception that he thought the exhibit was worthless.

Also, I suffer from both a financial disability from being able to see all the wonderful original works of art that I would like to see, as well as my daughter's actual disabilities which often prevent such desired travel.

Fair enough, Will. :)

I realize Edward's got an actual life and all, but it'd be cool if he were up to a post about what's involved in the decision to present a new work of art - pick one more or less at random and go with it.

How would you fix this exhibit? Do you insert more explicit warnings: "NOT A MASTERPIECE - REPLICA!"?

That's a fair question. First of all, I wouldn't have it in a museum of "art" but some other venue. In fact, in some other venue, I'd probably champion it if it's as good as they're saying it is. Secondly, though, I'd strike that lie out of the catalog. That's print, for pete's sake...how can they get away with that?

Re: pilgramages. What's to be learned is more anthropological than anything else (I wrote "The context in which it ends up tells us as much about who and what we are as humans" not that it tells us anything more about the work or the artist. Experiencing art, however, is (or at least should be) about more than just the art or the artist once a work is declared a "masterpiece." That's a comparative declaration and requires context to mean anything. Why is "Whistler's Mother" in the Louvre and not the Met, for example? What does it mean that France got that masterpiece by the American-born painter? Does it reflect something more important about French attitudes than American ones? Was it that France recognized its genius more or that America has other Whistlers and didn't want/couldn't afford that one? There's a pageant of human drama in each context that I want to learn about. This Carravagio exhibition ignores all that.

The catalog didn't say "The aim is to let millions of people all over the world see posters of the masterpieces of Italian art." A work is not a masterpiece only because of its scale or composition or color, but also because of its texture, which is crucial to seeing what the artist was doing with light and brushstroke and rhythym and on and on.

And I could go on and on and on, but I'd better get lunch....

I'm not an expert on art, but I think in many mediums there are textures and other qualities that probably can't be captured by images. I have often been startled by seeing actual work compared with reproduction.

Now it is possible that these posters would surprise me, they are certainly worth something and if they did surprise it's a brilliant breakthrough. But it could be stressed. Putting some of the posters besides some of the originals would be interesting.

The fact that the publicity slant these people are using offends shows some weakness. I think such exhibits could be useful in placed in building lobbies, bus stations, shopping centers and other public places.

If the texture wasn't integral to "seeing" the image, Caravaggio would have drawn the damn things

So if the exhibitors were to make the prints on three-dimensional models, some kind of styrofoam or plastic molded to the shape of the original painting, would that bring the experience of viewing the painting any closer?

"Was it that France recognized its genius more or that America has other Whistlers and didn't want/couldn't afford that one? There's a pageant of human drama in each context that I want to learn about."

I was once been involved in a case involving determining the ownership of a piece of art. I agree completely that pieces of art occassionly have very interesting sub-stories.

I think this discussion highlights the profound differences between pre- and post-digital approaches to art. The fetishization of the original art object is largely nonexistant in the kind of work I do (I work in animation and broadcast design, so I'm using "art" broadly here, of course). Now, it could be argued that folks in my line of work fetishize reproductions; toys, collectible maquettes, prints, and prop replicas are popular items. And, of course, the thought of owning an original Millenium Falcon prop makes me go faint, but that's really the exception, not the rule.

Not, of course, that these issues haven't been raised over the course of a century by various reproductive media. It's just that with digital media we have completely cut the ties to an original negative, or manuscript, or master.

So if the exhibitors were to make the prints on three-dimensional models, some kind of styrofoam or plastic molded to the shape of the original painting, would that bring the experience of viewing the painting any closer?

It would probably be easier to just have a talented forger repaint it at that point.

Part of what your entry fee into a museum is supposed to be buying you is the opportunity to see for yourself what all the hoopla about this or that artist is. Some work has the ability to make people cry or rejoice. Practically speaking, it doesn't matter if it's a fake that does that or the real thing in the end. Although one might feel like a fool if he/she learned they cried over a fake. So the integrity of the museuem is at stake in presenting something people will open up their minds and hearts to.

I first saw the Leonardo cartoon at the National Gallery in London in 1985. I was stunned at how awesome that piece was...truly stunned. I fell head over heels in love with it and returned many time just to be in the same room with it. I remember describing it in my diary at the time as looking "as if it were alive." (I assume at that time it was the real McCoy.)

Later some idiot entered the gallery and shot the piece with a shotgun. The museum "repaired" it and reinstalled it. When I returned to see it again, though, I didn't see that "alive" quality I had remembered. The piece looked dead somehow.

Now I have to take the museum's word for it that they actually put out the repaired piece, and not some replica...but something had been lost in what had happened to it.

1) I would be interested if some different technology could improve the experience. We do have three dimensional digitizing imaging now.

2) Caravaggio must be viewed only by candlelight or sunlight; and those who view him must be tested to be certain they have forgotten the centuries of social and religious changes that make him incomprehensible to modern minds. Jesus looks like a peasant! And your point?(just kidding, mostly)

3) I might guess, I would have to think longer to make this good, that the "democratization of art" is a complex historical subject. I think of two huge waves, the Dutch early 17th and the French 19th when technology made original works relatively more available and probably of lower quality. Am I better off having a print or poster of Van Gogh on my wall or an original oil(wc) by a weaker pre-Raphaelite or minor American impressionist? IIRC, you get a decent 2nd or 3rd level historical oil in the range of 5-25k.

4) You will get my 50k wallpaper jpgs off my desktop over my dead body. I also listen to mp3's and actually watch movies on television.

It is possible now to make prints on canvas or watercolor paper which are nearly indistinguishable from the original. Watercolors particularly can be reproduced this way. A gallery here features "paintings" which are actually prints on canvass that have been slightly overpainted by the artist.
I'm not sure why this hits my gag reflex. After all the works are accurately described and it does make it possible for the artist to sell more and make more money. I suppose I am making a fetish of the original work.
As a side note, the experience of viewing the real thing in a museum can be very disappointing. The Chicago Art museum has some Impressionist works that are framed in huge garish gilded frames, so massive and inapporpriate that the paintings just look ridiculous. Sometimes a book can actually give you a better view.

Edward,

I'm curious, what do you consider to be better replicas of paintings: digital reproductions or good forgeries?

(fyi, I went to http://www.leopoldmuseum.org/ the other week. Living in Vienna has its upsides.)

Did I mention that my favorite artist creating Masterpieces is Thomas Kincaide?


I kid. I kid.

I much prefer Elvis on black velvet.

Somewhere, Walter Benjamin is doubled over.

fyi, I went to http://www.leopoldmuseum.org/ the other week.

I am so jealous!

what do you consider to be better replicas of paintings: digital reproductions or good forgeries?

depends on their purpose. If it's to record the basics (composition, color, etc), then a digital reporuction is better. If it's to be exhibited in lieu of the original, then you want a forgery I think.

Somewhere, Walter Benjamin is doubled over.

Indeed.

42nd,

Well, I need to read up on Benjamin, but my knee-jerk response to his general arguments is that if art is supposed to reflect its time then its one thing for contemporary artists to make mechanically reproducible work and another thing altogether to reproduce work that was made when such technology didn't exist, no?

if art is supposed to reflect its time then its one thing for contemporary artists to make mechanically reproducible work and another thing altogether to reproduce work that was made when such technology didn't exist

Depends on whether the reproduction is meant to be taken as a simulacrum or as a separate, but derivative work in its own right, n'est pas? The digital repro reflects its own time rather than the time of the piece it attempts to reproduce -- which makes sense in an age that emphasizes the informational over the material.

Gromit, it's not a matter of fetishization. It's that physical dimension and texture are part of the work. This is as true of a painting as it is of a person, even though a painting or engraving is flatter than a person. It's flatter, but not flat or featureless.

Sufficiently good holography or other three-dimensional imaging would rock. :)

Or a sufficiently detailed stereolithography.

" It's that physical dimension and texture are part of the work. "

Never has the truth of this concept been driven home to me more forcefully than at the Van Gogh exhibit in Los Angeles (touring around the country back in 1999). I was stunned - literally stopped dead in my tracks - to see the thickness of the paints on the surface of his work. It looked more like someone had forged the paintings out of colored steel - with an unspeakable power of "placement" in each "stroke" of the pallette knife - than like someone had painted them. His works seemed as sculptural as they were painterly.

So, I'm with you Ed. The masterpieces need to be seen to be "seen."

Edward,

so if the purpose of this exibition is to give a wide range of people an experience close to looking at the originals, they should have engaged painters and not photographers?

(btw galleries: my uncle (2nd degree) runs one in Graz, see here )

(btw current exhibitions: I hope I don't miss this. I've been to the Prado some years ago and Goya (as well as El Greco) made a lasting impression.)

Benjamin seems applicable here because he gives us some useful vocabulary. Your points about pilgrimage and setting and anthropology are all part of Benjamin's "aura", which is precisely what he'd say mechanical reproduction rips out of the original every time. It sounds like you don't object to that reproduction as such-- who would these days?-- but to putting such reproductions where the originals would really belong.

It is too bad that the exhibit's organizers have promoted this show as though they were putting originals on display-- as you emphasize, that's a simple falsehood. But I think there's something else going on here, too. Imagine if somebody made high-resolution copies of Caravaggios and put them up in a museum hall, and entered it in the Venice Biennale. That would be a pretty good Frankfurt School kind of joke, eh? Even better if they were the technological marvels some of our later posters propose, representing the texture of the paint as well as the composition and color.

("You" above means Edward_. And, for reference, the text of the Benjamin is here.)

Caravaggio must be viewed only by candlelight or sunlight; and those who view him must be tested to be certain they have forgotten the centuries of social and religious changes that make him incomprehensible to modern minds. Jesus looks like a peasant! And your point?(just kidding, mostly)

Well, there is something to this mostly kidding point (taken straight). I remember seeing Caravaggio's triptych on St. Matthew in a church near Piazza Navona. There is artificial light, as I recall, but seeing it in the church somehow made a difference in the experience. I've made that particular pilgrimage more than once.

Still, I'm glad Edward emphasizes that the importance of the site is not necessarily directly connected to understanding the work itself. I sometimes find that museums, especially the big ones, have the air of elaborate warehouses, or maybe shopping malls. Instead of BestBuy and Gap we predictably find Impressionism and Roman sculpture. This detracts from the viewing experience. Maybe that tells us something about our relationship to art as well.

Of course, Caravaggio's paintings weren't painted to be in museums at all -- most, if not all, were painted to hang in specific churches or palazzi, and in fact in specific places in those buildings. And a fair number still do. (For ex., if you're in Rome, check out the three Caravaggios in the church of S. Luigi dei Francesi -- the play of light from in- and outside the dark church across the panels is a big part of the effect, and those paintings would look very, very different in a well-lit museum.)

So a bit of humility is called for from those defending "real" museums against the evil forces of digital photography. Museums are already at least one step removed from seeing the real thing.

That said, I saw the Mostra Impossibile here in Chicago, and yeah, it basically sucked.

Man, my point got made like 3 times while I was typing out the comment...

btw galleries: my uncle (2nd degree) runs one in Graz, see here )

Love Graz's warty pickle museum...got into trouble with the Berlin firm that designed its digital facade for criticizing it aesthetically though.


It sounds like you don't object to that reproduction as such-- who would these days?-- but to putting such reproductions where the originals would really belong.

Precisely. I'm all for new technology in artmaking. But I think a reproduction of a work in a museum setting is obscene. Move the exhibition to a mall or something. Carravagio most definitely wanted his work to be seen the way he took pains to make it appear, with texture. This exhibition is not a celebration of his work as much as it is a slap in his face.

Depends on whether the reproduction is meant to be taken as a simulacrum or as a separate, but derivative work in its own right, n'est pas? [[[...]]]

and

Imagine if somebody made high-resolution copies of Caravaggios and put them up in a museum hall, and entered it in the Venice Biennale. That would be a pretty good Frankfurt School kind of joke, eh?

The first suggestion would require that RAI act as artist (a la Sherry Levine or Warhol or whomever) though. They're not saying they are...they're just collecting the licensing fees. Moreover, it would require a rationale for doing so...again, missing here.

The second suggestion would illicit a general yawn, but then no more so than any other installation at Venice. ;-p

"That's like saying you can see the members of the orchestra moving their arms, hands, and lips, but not hear the actual sounds coming from their instruments."

Possibly more like saying you're listening to a recording, and not to a live orchestra, I suggest. But I'd be the last person to try to get in the way of a good ventilating rant. Okay, not last, but not entitled.

Bruce Baugh: It's that physical dimension and texture are part of the work.

I don't dispute this. But that doesn't mean that what we are talking about isn't fetishization.

Sufficiently good holography or other three-dimensional imaging would rock.

I'd be interested to hear Edward's take on this, particularly whether he'd still have a problem with such reproductions being presented, absent misrepresentation, in a gallery setting.

Your post was a pleasure to read. One can’t help wondering how long it will be before we can purchase say Caravaggio’s "Basket of Fruit" in Milan’s Ambrosiana (the painting practically attracts fruit flies) on a canvas with actual brushstrokes mechanically duplicated. A non-trivial problem to be sure, but one could analyze each stroke in its probable order of application (also type and size of brush bristle, paint types and oils’ chemistry, tip pressure and angle of brush movement, speed and length of stroke-- forgers do this well enough from observation and practice without using MRIs and x-rays.

This raises the epistemological question: When it’s done, who painted it? Michelangelo Merisi or Alan Turing?

IIRC, the American entry at Venice not long ago was a bunch of Africans on a street corner selling knockoff handbags. So yes, Venice is clearly the right place for this sort of thing. :-P

Possibly more like saying you're listening to a recording, and not to a live orchestra, I suggest. But I'd be the last person to try to get in the way of a good ventilating rant. Okay, not last, but not entitled.

Not exactly...I think my analogy is more apt (or at least more nuanced in a way that helps illustrate what's lost here).

What I mean is, the cracks were not put there by the artist, no more than the composer wrote detailed instructions on how a cellist was to move her arm to achieve a sound. So long as the sound is acheived, the angle of the arm movement is more or less irrelevant (and would be different for people of different sizes). Likewise, for me, it's irrevelvant that the highres image captures the cracks in the painting (with all that digital technology, the least they could do is "repair" the damn thing) they don't represent anything important to the artist about the piece.

I know, that's silly...just trying to fight for my analogy.

"Although one might feel like a fool if he/she learned they cried over a fake."

I think this is an exceptionally interesting thought.

The suggestion seems to be that one's reaction is invalid because it was produced without the validation of being induced by an "original."

I prefer to value the genuine human reaction. But this is doubtless one reason I'm deeply remote from the professional art world.

As you said in your prior sentence: "Practically speaking, it doesn't matter if it's a fake that does that or the real thing in the end."

I see a tension between the values of the professional art world, and normal human values here. Am I seeing something that isn't there?

What would you think of the value of "original" art over a copy, Edward, if, hypothetically, we had a Star Trek-like "replicator" that replicated on the molecular level?

"But I think a reproduction of a work in a museum setting is obscene."

This also suggests an interesting form of sacralization. Could you define "museum," please?

IIRC, the American entry at Venice not long ago was a bunch of Africans on a street corner selling knockoff handbags. So yes, Venice is clearly the right place for this sort of thing. :-P

hey, Fred had more going on than just that.

Personally, I thought he had dropped the ball a bit, having responded more viscerally to his American-based ideas, but an Italian friend of mine said he nailed it, capturing Venice in a way that resonated strongly with those who knew it best.

Earlier, analogizing to visual art: "That's like saying you can see the members of the orchestra moving their arms, hands, and lips, but not hear the actual sounds coming from their instruments."

Then:

Possibly more like saying you're listening to a recording, and not to a live orchestra, I suggest. But I'd be the last person to try to get in the way of a good ventilating rant. Okay, not last, but not entitled.

Not exactly...I think my analogy is more apt (or at least more nuanced in a way that helps illustrate what's lost here).

I understand you're trying to get at other points, but the actual analogy you've drawn would be to seeing a painter's arms and hand's wielding a brush, and the work being invisible.

Not hearing = not seeing. Not hearing =/ seeing poorly. Hearing poorly = seeing poorly.

Isn't this fetishising art somewhat? I mean,I understand the difference between seeing a masterpiece in person vs. seeing a slide of it in an art history course, but c'mon now. These aren't religious artifacts. Well, maybe they are. I'm just uncomfortable with that.

I agree Gary, it's a fascinating issue.

We want authenticity in our art, especially now that for many people art and/or science have replaced God/religion as the "higher purpose," but one can experiernce grace through a false God as easily as a real one, I suspect, given the right circumstances.

The suggestion seems to be that one's reaction is invalid because it was produced without the validation of being induced by an "original."

Not for me, but I do think that's true for many people who would later realize the experience they had wasn't somehow cosmically destined.

I prefer to value the genuine human reaction. But this is doubtless one reason I'm deeply remote from the professional art world.

One of many, I'm sure. Here's a wonderful introduction to a serially published book dealing with these topics.

I see a tension between the values of the professional art world, and normal human values here. Am I seeing something that isn't there?

Well, those of us in the professional art world like to think of ourselves as normal humans, so I'm not sure. I think that divide is based more on laziness/disinterest than intention, personally. Very little of the "alienating" artwork I know was designed to have that effect...it usually simply reflects a reality folks don't want to deal with. If a human can think an idea, why not explore it. Responsibility does come into the equation, but we're not talking about snuff films here (or at least I hope not).

What would you think of the value of "original" art over a copy, Edward, if, hypothetically, we had a Star Trek-like "replicator" that replicated on the molecular level?

See my anecdote about Leonardo's cartoon above...I'm somewhat convinced the Star Trek replica would still be missing something...maybe hard to percieve, but something.

That would be the "aura", right?

yes Walter...that would be the aura...I guess.

Isn't this fetishising art somewhat? I mean,I understand the difference between seeing a masterpiece in person vs. seeing a slide of it in an art history course, but c'mon now. These aren't religious artifacts. Well, maybe they are. I'm just uncomfortable with that.

What in particular is fetishising art?

For me, not seeing the texture of a painting is like listening to a symphony without hearing the string instruments (when they were clearly an important part of the composition). It might have some limited educational value, but it's certainly not what I want from the experience.

What in particular is fetishising art?

I'm sorry, that was unclear. What I meant was imbuing physical objects with supernatural qualities. Making them sacred, in other words. Or, as you put it...

I'm somewhat convinced the Star Trek replica would still be missing something...maybe hard to percieve, but something.

What I meant was imbuing physical objects with supernatural qualities.

I know, that's a tricky one. I don't often feel a work of art has an "aura" (packing and shipping as much as I do, it becomes somewhat unmysterious at times), but the Leonardo most definitely had something.

There is the idea of energy put into a piece being important though. Looking at a deKooning, for example, or a Pollock: is the mark simply a record of the energy and action or does it still, somehow, contain that energy? Could the energy be released from the painting if so?

We'd say no, if we thought about it, but that's certainly not how you feel when standing before one.

Say, there aren't going to be any spoilers for great art in this thread, are there?

;-)

"Here's a wonderful introduction to a serially published book dealing with these topics."

Having skimmed the first half, one reason I have trouble relating to its thrust thus far is that I'm an atheist, more or less, and the whole "we must find a substitute for God in art" simply doesn't relate to me at all. I understand that it's attempting to analyze art's relationship to society, and not me, of course.

On of my problems with reading discussions of art is that so much of it seems to, well, lack semantic content.

This isn't to say I find no value in art, of course, because I very much do. And in poetry. But writing about art in only poetic terms doesn't convey so much to me as perhaps the author intends.

The psychoanalyst Michael Balint points out that "modern art" has made an immense contribution to human maturity by demonstrating that we need not repress the fact that in and around us. . . discordant features exist.
This is an example of a statement about art that makes perfect sense to me.

Okay, finished the piece. I think I grokked it, more or less. I'm not clear if you had any particular point in mind, though?

Say, there aren't going to be any spoilers for great art in this thread, are there?

;-)

I did NOT spoil anything!!! Believe me, there's so much depth to that film our cursory reference to passages (much less detailed than any of the reviews out there) can't be seen as a spoiler...you're gonna see that once you see the film.

I'm not clear if you had any particular point in mind, though?

Specifically it's how Kuspit explains how the "negative identity" of modern art ultimately makes it self-destructive (without meaning to be) and hence unattractive to many people.

"I think that divide is based more on laziness/disinterest than intention, personally."

I'm thinking you mean "uninterest," not "disinterest." It's unclear to me why being objective would be bad.

"See my anecdote about Leonardo's cartoon above...I'm somewhat convinced the Star Trek replica would still be missing something...maybe hard to percieve, but something."

I saw it, which is why I asked, and why I specified "molecular level." If you think you are capable of detecting molecular-level differences, I suggest that you are wrong. If you are suggesting that there is something mystical and supernatural about your senses, um, well, okay, conversation will likely break down there.

It's precisely that suggestion that there is something mystical involved that I was making a roll of the dice at trying to pin down.

"maybe hard to percieve, but something."

No, you just asserted that you could -- you think -- perceive it. Possibly you wish to instead suggest that you might not be able to explain it.

But then we're back at suggesting that the quality of art that makes it special is mystical. Let me know, please, if I'm getting something wrong or missing something crucial.

"yes Walter...that would be the aura...I guess."

You're using "aura" metaphorically? Or not?

"For me, not seeing the texture of a painting is like listening to a symphony without hearing the string instruments (when they were clearly an important part of the composition)."

But back at the replicated at the molecular level? (We can go down to atomic, subatomic, or quantum, if you prefer; these are not metaphors, you know.)

"There is the idea of energy put into a piece being important though."

I'm still looking forward to a definition of "museum," but please define your usage of "energy"? I trust you don't mean it in the standard, physics, meaning, but what you mean, besides some sort of metaphor, I have no idea.

There is the idea of energy put into a piece being important though. Looking at a deKooning, for example, or a Pollock: is the mark simply a record of the energy and action or does it still, somehow, contain that energy?

I'd say no, and my physical presence before pieces of art that I'd worshipped in slide form during art history courses reinforced that. I studied the Italian Renaissance in a course that took place in Florence, Rome, Sienna, Urbino, and a bunch other smaller Italian towns, and often as not, I'd be surprised at how ordinary the art was in person. "Hmm", I thought when I stood before Botticelli's "Rites of Spring" in the Uffizi, "worm holes."

Suddenly, Botticelli's destruction of some of his artwork in response the the sermons of Savonarola didn't seem quite as tragic.

In the meantime, I'd really like to see a collection of high-quality full-size Caravaggios. I love that dude.

"I did NOT spoil anything!!!"

Not you. Some other idiot started out with "did you mean the last scene in which...?"

That sort of thing tempts me to use Bad Words. But, then, I grew up (so to speak) on an internet where that sort of behavior was Very Wrong and Very Anti-Social. But I don't want to sidetrack this discussion onto one of netiquette.

Specifically it's how Kuspit explains how the "negative identity" of modern art ultimately makes it self-destructive (without meaning to be) and hence unattractive to many people.
Okay. I'm fairly sure that has nothing whatever to do with my own reaction to modern art, for what it's worth. There happens to be plenty of modern art I like, although I'm sure I'm not Properly Understanding endless things those more educated in the tradition see. I'm not hostile to modern art, although I'm deeply skeptical about various aspects of much of the art world culture that surrounds it.

I do share some of the popular doubt about art that requires greater and greater education to appreciate it, and thus inevitably seeks a smaller and smaller appreciative audience. The endpoint of that is obvious, which is not to say that I knock that which is of value for a single person. Despite being non-religious, I do appreciate the tradition I came out of, which is to appreciate the metaphor that a single being is a world.

But it may not be a shared world.

"One can’t help wondering how long it will be before we can purchase say Caravaggio’s 'Basket of Fruit' in Milan’s Ambrosiana (the painting practically attracts fruit flies) on a canvas with actual brushstrokes mechanically duplicated."

Sure, why not? The original's price would go down, but that's okay.

Going back to the starter post, Edward has a point about the catalogue's phrasing and the digital repros' technical shortcomings. But I have no problem with showing the repros in a museum. Art museums are only incidentally showplaces for objects; they are primarily showplaces for art. Up to now the art could only be represented by objects, but technology is changing that ground rule. We may not be there yet, but in the meantime a museum exhibition is a good place to show the intermediate efforts. A virtual exhibition of an artist's complete works seems worth seeing, even without the brushstrokes. A bank or mall isn't going to put on an exhibition of the complete Caravaggio, not even in virtual form. A museum will and it can charge admission (which I assume is necessary to help make the exhibit possible).

None of this is good for people who dedicate their lives to handling the original artifacts produced by an artist, but for the rest of us it's just fine.

Gary,

I'm more than willing to stand up for Edward here.

A painting has three-dimensional values that a two-di reproduction simply cannot capture.

A painting in a consacrated shrine has an entirely different meaning, is read differently, is viewed differently. Lighting is part of this equation; context is another.

Seriously, insofar as art-experience is concerned, I'm becoming less and less democratic. I want contemporary art to be available, but I'm beginning to concede that connoisseurship might indeed be elitist.

"A painting has three-dimensional values that a two-di reproduction simply cannot capture."

Did I suggest anything in the slightest to the contrary?

I also couldn't agree more that every change in context changes an experience.

I'd also include the fact that the largest part of the context we ever see anything in is our own experience, knowledge, and consciousness, all of which is different with each second that passes.

This is why I have the Emily Dickenson quote on my blog sidebar as the lead quote. All flows from that.

Thank you Jackmormon...I want to pick up on that in a moment...but first,

No, you just asserted that you could -- you think -- perceive it. Possibly you wish to instead suggest that you might not be able to explain it.

perceive - verb -To become aware of directly through any of the senses, especially sight or hearing.
To achieve understanding of; apprehend.

Why on earth would I attempt to explain something I could not perceive? I stand by the original...now, back to Jackmormon's point and (hopefully) tie it into this point by Gary

I do share some of the popular doubt about art that requires greater and greater education to appreciate it, and thus inevitably seeks a smaller and smaller appreciative audience.

To respond to this I want to quote a brilliant comment on a thread on my art blog where I questioned spirituality in contemporary art:

The canon of contemporary science (and mathematics) has grown too large to ever read it in one lifetime, much less internalize and master it. This very fact demands a significant degree of faith from those who study it most closely!

For reasons I cannot comprehend, this paradox is fine with most Americans: that they cannot ever read, let alone master, the canon of contemporary science, yet they feel free to suggest there's something conspiratorial about the fact that they cannot master the canon of contemporary art. Why??? How much time do these people dedicate to studying contemporary art? Are artists somehow obligated to continuously dumb down their work for a public unwilling to invest in it? As Jackmormon notes: "I want contemporary art to be available, but I'm beginning to concede that connoisseurship might indeed be elitist."

Personally, I have no time for dumb art...I'm starving for smarter, more challenging art...spiritually and intellecutally starving for it. The most brilliant artists working today should be encouraged to push further, dig deeper, try harder...not pull back for fear of alienating the public. Scientists would never be asked to do this.

Crap. I was afraid of exactly this. "Israeli Leader Suffers Serious Stroke"

I'm opening a thread, Gary.

perceive - verb -To become aware of directly through any of the senses, especially sight or hearing. To achieve understanding of; apprehend.
Why on earth would I attempt to explain something I could not perceive?

Earlier:

See my anecdote about Leonardo's cartoon above...I'm somewhat convinced the Star Trek replica would still be missing something...maybe hard to percieve, but something."
Have you considered hiring out as a Fourier Transform Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectrometer, then? There'd be good money in it.

Are you really sure you want to assert that you can perceive and differentiate individual molecular structures, Edward? Remember, this is the question you are answering:

What would you think of the value of "original" art over a copy, Edward, if, hypothetically, we had a Star Trek-like "replicator" that replicated on the molecular level?
Now you're saying that you could tell the difference. Probably you've forgotten that this was the question?

"For reasons I cannot comprehend, this paradox is fine with most Americans"

I don't speak for most Americans, but I don't have "faith," save that fraud and error in science, when significant, is found, by the inherent nature of the scientific method, and that it produces testable, reproducible, falsifiable results, which describe objective reality.

This is comparable neither to religion nor art, although unlike some -- I was just arguing futilely with P. Z. Myers yesterday on his blog on his error in dismissing all religion as worthless and inherently destructive.

The only "faith" I have in science is based upon a)logic; and b) its history. This is not actually what we commonly call "faith."

Blockquote out!

On the rest of what you say, I'm not sure how to respond, because it's obvious a cri de coeur of general frustration, rather than having anything particular to do with me, or my opinions.

I think it's a fairly dreadful idea to compare art and science in pretty much any regard, save for C. P. Snow's lament on the tendency towards division in our culture of being being able to appreciate the values of both.

Otherwise, they have absolutely nothing whatever in common, and that's their point. Trying to imply they should is pretty much the definition of "category error."

I don't think artists have any obligations other than to their creditors, or loved ones.

And if making art that only a a small number of people can appreciate is something anyone enjoys, good on them. Why not?

Edward_,
First of all, you are definitely missed around these parts.

While I agree with you on the substance of what you write, I think what is driving this is the necessity of separating the one of a kind aspects of place (which people are working on isolating and adding to your viewing experience) and making it something that exists in a place accessible to all. That it is infused by a certain sense of hucksterism (which is always supported by an appeal to being part of the in crowd) is unavoidable. It also follows from the fact that for a single person or an elite group of people to support an artist is a model that may not be sustainable. And, it is relatively clear that a national group supported by taxpayer funds cannot support the kind of challenging art that you long for (though I think it should be able to, but it is hard to imagine it working with so many people willing to hold it up as waste in order to gain political advantage). Thus, I think that you are basically staring down the barrel of the future, to which you have two choices. One is to get reactionary and reject it all and the other is to deal with the change in a way that would increase interest rather than decrease it. Though, to riff on Gary's observation, a cri de coeur shouldn't be taken as proof that you are being reactionary.

You may be interested in the book _Avatars of the Word_, which looks at a similar question, but for a battle already fought and lost, which is that of the transmission of text.

"First of all, you are definitely missed around these parts."

Yes, very much. I regret I didn't say that earlier. I guess I thought Edward would hear my thoughts on that, since they're so loud and emphatic.

I think we're having a breakdown of communication here Gary:

Are you really sure you want to assert that you can perceive and differentiate individual molecular structures, Edward?

I'm not at all sure I did, but if I rephrase will you accept such as a blanket response and not deconstruct my answers as complete or incomplete in the context of your long series of questions? It gets to the point where the only way to respond to you so that you don't retrack and complain the other person isn't being forthright is to compile a laundry list, and that's no fun.

I expect that a Star Trek replicated Da Vinci would suffer and although I might not be able to put my finger on exactly why (i.e., I couldn't differentiate on the molecular level and say, for example, "It's that quark there...it's spinning the other direciton"), I do believe I (or other people who had spent hours with it) would sense the difference all the same. I believe a masterpiece is something greater than the sum of its parts and that no one other than the artist can inject that "masterpiece" quality into the artwork. In other words, a molecular-level replica is still gonna be missing something. Whether that sounds like something supernatural to you is irrelevant to me. That Da Vinci was dead, where before it had been miraculous. My meager vocabulary can't do justice to why ... but it was.

"First of all, you are definitely missed around these parts."

The feeling is mutual guys.

Thanks for the recommendation on the book, LJ...I'll look for it tomorrow. I've become obsessed with these topics.

Thus, I think that you are basically staring down the barrel of the future, to which you have two choices. One is to get reactionary and reject it all and the other is to deal with the change in a way that would increase interest rather than decrease it.

I'm happy to be challenged by change. I've actually re-assessed several major believes just this past year because of what I've learned from my artists. It's painful, but I never regret it a few months down the road.

But I'm a purist in that I think the change (at least in the context of an "art" museum) should come from an artist, and not a television company looking to license guaranteed blockbuster exhibitions.

Moreover, specifically to your point about dealing with change so as to increase rather than decrease interest, again if an artist were doing this, I'd look more closely.

Of course, if an artist were doing it, he/she'd be subjecting themselves to the most vicious critique in art history and I'd be leading the charge with my fangs well sharpened. If it survived that, then well, I'd reconsider.

I've actually re-assessed several major beliefs...the importance of learning to spell, obviously, not one of them.

"I'm not at all sure I did, but if I rephrase will you accept such as a blanket response and not deconstruct my answers as complete or incomplete in the context of your long series of questions?"

Yes.

"I expect that a Star Trek replicated Da Vinci would suffer and although I might not be able to put my finger on exactly why...."

It's not necessary to say exactly why, or even very finely. I'd like you to clarify, though, if you feel like it, whether you believe this is something mystical/supernatural, or physically present in the physical, objective, universe.

I realize, of course, that said opinion is artist's boilerplate, but I'm really quite interested in whether you are able to either clearly ground it as natural or supernatural.

If it's the latter, okay, I'll acknowledge that it's your belief, and there's no more to be said. If it's the former, I will, of course, try to further understand whether your belief is justifiable. Up to a point. And trying not to lose my temper or cause you to lose yours. :-) Deal?

I'd still really like it if you would define "museum," though.

Part of the heart of your entire rant is that "My objection is the lowering of the standard for actually viewing work in a museum setting."

So: what's a "museum"? Either it's something simple, and something simple to define, and something simple to object to being present or not present, or it isn't. Am I missing an alternative?

Deal.

I realize, of course, that said opinion is artist's boilerplate, but I'm really quite interested in whether you are able to either clearly ground it as natural or supernatural.

Well, in a vaccuum, I don't actually believe in the supernatural, but I do believe there are responses to things we have that we currently lack the knowledge/vocabulary to explain so we fall back on the next best thing and to many people it sounds as if we're asserting some supernatural force is at work.

In the example of Leonardo's cartoon, I suspect there were a series of marks the master made that were in harmony in such a way as to cause extreme pleasure in looking at them. Once the piece was shot, however, the best the conservators had to rebuild it with were images taken with a camera of some sort. And cameras have limitations. Now I'm sure they took incredibly high-resolution photographs of the piece, but if you've ever drawn anything you know that the very smallest of shifts in the direction the implement touching paper takes can make a world of difference in how you view the resulting mark and how it relates to the marks around it.

So my assumption is that in trying to recreate the lines that the buckshot had obliviated, they made a few (perhaps very small) changes, but they added up to a loss in the harmony Da Vinci had achieved.

In the sentence you quote, I could have written "art museum" to be more clear.

I'd still really like it if you would define "museum," though.

An "art museum" to me should exhibit art. Not posters of art...they can sell those in their gift shop.

An art museum is an institution dedicated to the preservation and exhibition (in order to both raise funds for the preservation as well as serve to educate the attendees) of the artworks their curators feel are worthy of such an effort. The reputation of the art museum depends on whether their curators make good choices or not. The context of the art museum is pretty much universally understood to be the display of the artwork in such a way that the viewer can appreciate it from a point of view that the artist intended it to be seen. This obligates the museum to consider, among other things, the medium used (i.e., they can't project video in a room flooded with sunlight, unless the artist intended it to be washed out, and they can't bath a tapestry in such harsh light that you can't see it's texture).

Just realized...I need to carry on and discuss the Star Trek replicated art work.

Let's assume they replicated the Da Vinci before it was shot. I don't know the extents of this technology, but I'm assuming its reproduction of molecules is so exact that there's no way to distinguish the age of the former from that latter, no?

If so, then it may be possible that no one could tell the difference, no matter how long they looked at it, because in the end, a drawing is a series of molecules arranged in a certain fashion.

But that's demanding so much from that technology, because it's the exact color and chemical composition of the ink, the exact thickness and chemical composition of the paper, and its texture, and the effects of time, and the extremely exact placement of all the objects molecules, with no room for any error (no matter how submolecular or sub-submolecular or sub-sub-sub, etc.) that would make it so.

Guess I can't imagine that.

I think the whole replicator line is a diversion (though even in the ST world, both Picard and Sisko have made the suggestion that replicated food is not the same as 'real' food) in some ways. And Phillip Dick deals with this (in his own thrown 100 ideas out in the course of a novel) in _Man in the High Castle_

But the question is not the physical characteristics, but what would be missing, beyond the physical characteristics that, if we could define them completely, might be replicable by some future technology, is the connection with the creator, which is essentially something that is internal to the viewer and cannot be reproduced. So setting aside some imaginary technology, what is needed is something that can alter, with precision, emotional states and memories. And if we reach that point, I assure you that figuring out how to replicate the perfect viewing experience will be the least of our concerns.

OTOH, the museum context that Edward speaks of can, in cases of art that was designed for other contexts, decontexualize the work and detract from our appreciation. So in some ways, the museum context is as artificial as the electronic context you are reacting to. It is difficult to imagine that Caravaggio imagined the museum context, so already, we at least one step removed from the context.

We fall back on the intent of the artist, but I'm less than certain that we can safely understand what Caravaggio's intent would have been, separated from the original context as we are. I would be more willing to accept intent for a modern-day paper and would be willing to extend it back a century or so, but at some point, we utilize the art of Caravaggio not simply as art, but as a way of understanding the past. At least that is my (wishy washy) take.

"Well, in a vaccuum, I don't actually believe in the supernatural, but I do believe there are responses to things we have that we currently lack the knowledge/vocabulary to explain so we fall back on the next best thing and to many people it sounds as if we're asserting some supernatural force is at work."

I'm down with that. And on the Leo cartoon, I wasn't wondering about that at all; I completely agree with what you said.

You've said you withdrew any suggestion that you could perceive a molecular-level difference (wise move).

However, your answer then just stops, leaving me completely unawares of where you'd draw the line marking the crucial difference between whether a piece of physical art was an "original" or a "copy.

We seem to have established that it's above the molecular level, but smaller than a micrometer, and it's physical, not supernatural, so definitionally it is measurable.

So it's theoretically possible to -- someday -- mount an exhibit -- with future technology only, obviously -- of copies that you will find unobjectionable. Are we still on the same page?

I'm sure that when we can do nanometer copying, you will be highly emotionally uncomfortable with the notion that the copy is virtually -- and imperceptibly -- identical to the original.

And, of course, until you see such a thing, while it's still hypothetical, you're perfectly free to insist that you'd still be able to tell the difference. Although at that point, we have a perfectly easy test for that. Which will be quite interesting, don't you think?

Because, mark my words, while I can't guarantee that either one of us will see it, that's going to happen. Pretty surely within, at the wildest and most outside estimate, by no more than seventy-five years from now, max. I'd say forty years from now is extremely conservatively safe as an estimate.

Just want you to be prepared, you know.

:-)

I do appreciate that I'm asking you to discuss a semi-non-rational topic, art, in a completely non-abstract way, but, after all, art is your subject, and you like to think about it, I take it, so I'm assuming that you don't simply put it all off on a non-rational basis; you certainly haven't struck me as taking such an approach, at any rate.

In a complete non-sequitur, I've lost track of on which thread DutchMarbel asked why no one was writing about Tirhas Habtegiris, but I wrote this, although it's probably not what she was looking for.

"We fall back on the intent of the artist, but I'm less than certain that we can safely understand what Caravaggio's intent would have been, separated from the original context as we are."

That was one place I was going, but as I'm not trying to trap Edward (and when it seems as if I was so doing in the past, I'd like to think that it was merely mostly my own rather perverse and semi-dysfunctional approach to trying to get answers to questions that bug me -- at a slight remove, I can recognize that this approach, when not wielded purely for good, might be more akin to banging the side of tv to try to fix the reception, rather than a more socially adept approach), and I'm finding the answers interesting, I'll probably sit back for the nonce, with thanks to Edward for graciously responding.

(See, I knew we could do this right someday; so, what have you been off wasting time on instead of spending it here, anyway? ;-))

As long as we're doing predictions...

Some people will detect replicas of increasing sophistication more easily and reliably than others. Some of those who don't sense the difference will dismiss it all as hokum. It will eventually turn out that there are in fact emergent properties of artwork constructed along certain lines that some people sense and interpret more readily than others, and that the differences are related to sorts of impairment involved with autism and tone deafness, and to their opposites in heightened sensitivity to some input.

Authenticity-deafness will be widely recognized as simply missing some kinds of cues. Most of those who have it will agree. Some will seek to deny it much as some emotionally impaired people seek to deny the reality of love or compassion. People will vary in how interesting and exotic they find the documentable reality and its underlying causes, some of which will continue to evade full documentation.

Caravaggio

Derek Jarman's movie was really gay, but mostly really ...unusual, and I can't believe I watched the whole thing, but I am glad I did. May or may not have much to do with Caravaggio.

The talk of Star Trek replications hasn't mentioned the unique "objectness" of art works, which may not exist in the physical object. This is nothing I would call supernatural, but may be partially contained in the provenance.

No matter how many or how exact the copies of the Declaration are, there is only one that John Hancock touched. Auction off a Van Gogh and 100 exact copies, and one will sell for 100 million dollars.

Sorry I havent read all the comments.

Lowbrow comment here: Remember those little 2-image plastic things in the cracker-jack boxes that you could wiggle back and forth and see 2 images or the illusion of movement.

Well, Umberto Boccioni (sp?) was and is my favorite painter because you could kind of move your head back and forth and see the movement in his paintings, which has everything to with the texture.

Nice to see the occasional post Edward_. I do look at and read your way cool website from time to time and you do a fantastic job, although it is way out of my league to attempt to comment there.

DaveC,
I would argue that your comment is exactly what Edward is arguing for. You self-identify as "low brow," you aren't using any high-faluting art terminology, but you got everything you needed to out of Boccioni's work because you stopped and paid attention to what paint can do on canvas.

I agree. The most direct and straightforward pleasure from a work is a pleasure from the work, after all. A step of enjoyment is a good thing, regardless of however many do or don't follow it later.

I have no depth perception - I wonder if I'm able to appreciate painting under the strictest criteria above.

I have no depth perception

I should at times use that as a caveat for my comments as well.

DaveC-

Piero de Cosimo does that for me, as do the best cubists.

Edward-

Must a true replication of a work of Art be a lie? Is the 1620 bronze porcellino in the Straw Market a lie, with his good-luck-worn golden snout? He is but a cast copy of a true Greek white marble boar in the halls of the Uffizzi and one of the few Greek works not a Roman copy. If so a lie, at least he was made by someone touching the real art.
But it was a cast… Some artists make several copies of the same work, Rodin for instance. Are these wrought truths because the artist tells them, but are lies in the mouths of anyone else?
Hmmm….

"I have no depth perception."

I'm told that neither have I. At least, as an extremely young child I was diagnosed with amblyopia, and was operated on for it when I was 4 or 5 years old, but that was purely cosmetic. Then I spent years doing eye exercises with odd contraptions of strings and hand-held poles. And wore glasses.

All I know is that I have something that fakes depth perception well enough for me to get by, and mostly not notice anything abnormal, save that I do somewhat tend to knock into things fairly easily, and particularly with my feet.

And my arms. And hands.

And there's that frequent blurriness.

But aside from that, you know, I don't notice anything out of the ordinary.

:-)

the cubist,

even in casting, even in painting, even in printmaking, etc, etc, there are thousands of minute decisions an artist makes that a forger might not. Things so tiny perhaps only the artist would ever know the difference, but things, none the less, that would make the forgery a lie, yes.

what would be missing, beyond the physical characteristics that, if we could define them completely, might be replicable by some future technology, is the connection with the creator, which is essentially something that is internal to the viewer and cannot be reproduced.

I like to think so yes, but in thinking through the Star Trek thing, it does seem that even the grease from finger print of the artist when he/she last touched the canvas would have to be somehow replicated, no? At some submolecular level, I believe, you can indeed replicate what the artist put into the piece, because in the end, it's all in there, physically, somehow. I don't think such technology can actually ever exist though (nano copying still won't cut it), so I'm not so worried.

Dave C,

Jackmormon is right, you would be a very welcome addition to the commentors there with an insight like that.

"The aim is to let millions of people all over the world see the masterpieces of Italian art. It's an example of the 'democratization' of art," Parascandolo writes in the exhibit catalogue.

No. The "democratization" of art is accomplished by having great masterpieces on display in free exhibits. The appropriate use of technology is in transporting/protecting masterpieces so that people who cannot afford to travel can see art.

My art is words, which is a great advantage: my words remain mine, no matter how copied or transmitted. But an actual, physical work of art is something quite other, and while reproductions have some value in letting people see what they're missing, there's no point in letting people think they're seeing the real thing when they're not.

"The most brilliant artists working today should be encouraged to push further, dig deeper, try harder...not pull back for fear of alienating the public. Scientists would never be asked to do this."

Actually, this is incorrect: Scientists are asked to do this, particularly when the science is extremely expensive. I know that around the time of the big debate over the Superconducting Supercollider, a common complaint was that modern particle physics existed for the benefit of nobody but "a few geniuses", since there were no known technical applications of the science and it was comprehensible only by learned specialists. I remember one letter to a science magazine that compared a modern particle accelerator to a giant starship destined to take a few scientists on a one-way exploratory mission to the depths of space from which they would never return to tell the tale, or even send back reports.

hmmm, Matt, I did not know that. I think the attitude is far more common with regards to contemporary art though, no?

Stem cell research? Human cloning?

Intelligent Design?

There's a difference between science that people object to on moral grounds and that they object to because it's too elist for them, no, Gromit?

And I cringe to see Intelligent Design so easily associated in our collective culture with "science." {{shudder}}

"and while reproductions have some value in letting people see what they're missing, there's no point in letting people think they're seeing the real thing when they're not."

Current wallpaper:Paris Bordone,"Allegory with Lovers", 1550

I have a visceral reaction to much of this thread. No my Hi-res wallpaper is not as valuable as...well what...being rushed past the real painting on a 15 minute tour? I think I am experiencing something that approaches beauty, approximates an aesthetic experience, and I will not have my appreciation utterly devalued or turned into something negative in itself. What you are describing as the only authentic way to experience art is so elitist it becomes an impossibility to any but a handful of people.

Are we actually saying that your average person is better off with an inferior oil by a weekend amateur than a Rembrandt print? Cause I can point anyone who wants a cheap oil ($500) to the sites that sell them.

bob: Are we actually saying that your average person is better off with an inferior oil by a weekend amateur than a Rembrandt print?

I don't know what "we" are saying, but I am saying that no one except a fraudster benefits if someone ("average" or not) is told that their print of Rembrandt's Self-Portrait, 1669 is exactly the same thing as standing in front of the picture itself in the National Gallery in London. It's not.

What you are describing as the only authentic way to experience art is so elitist it becomes an impossibility to any but a handful of people.

Oh, for heaven's sake. Anyone in the world can walk into the National Gallery in London. The pictures belong to the public: entry is free. It's not elitist to say that it's a different experience to stand in front of the real thing than it is to see a print or a copy on a screen. Nor is it an experience open to only a "handful" of people: go into any free public art gallery, any time of day, and you'll see more than a handful of people walking around, getting the experience for themselves. Elitist is art that's confined to private collections, never loaned out, never on public view. Free public art galleries, in city centres, are the democratization of art.

"someone ("average" or not) is told that their print of Rembrandt's Self-Portrait, 1669 is exactly the same thing as standing in front of the picture itself"

This (and the post) seems an exaggerated response to a single sentence in a catalog.

Count me among the pro-fake crowd.


"If the texture wasn't integral to 'seeing' the image, Caravaggio would have drawn the damn things."

Is there evidence for this? Could he have put the same colors on to a medium with the same commercial effect other than by painting?


In music anyway people transcribe scores for instruments the composer didn't write for, and few object.

Is there evidence for this? Could he have put the same colors on to a medium with the same commercial effect other than by painting?

I can't believe it took 99 comments (and nearly 50 on my art blog) for someone to point this out. It was the weakest point in my rant. Thanks, rilkefan (you $%&#@!). ;-)

Although on the art blog I think they figure it's the sentiment of various media options and not the technical limitations available to Carravagio at that time that I'm getting at.

This (and the post) seems an exaggerated response to a single sentence in a catalog.

Count me among the pro-fake crowd.

Here, we part ways, though. It's not an exaggerated response in my opinion...from a comment I made on the other blog:

I'll outline my concern with a hypothetical future.

Say this exhibition is a huge hit and other cash-strapped university museums line up to get their own "impossible exhibitions." The creators of this show certainly hope that happens. Eventually, these shows begin to shift the expectations of what a local museum can exhibit such that a more modest exhibition with the real work seems a sorry substitute.

Further, because these photos are reproducible, you could distribute the same exhibition to virtually every museum across the country that could cough up the licensing fee. Again, I'm sure RAI has thought this far ahead.

Next is the same sort of nation-wide marketing for exhibitions we see for films. Once that much money is involved, you can bet the "real" artwork exhibitions will begin to seem quaint and pointless.

What this leads to is the minimization of up and coming artists in the museum context (even more than they are now). The way that proven brand stories/characters (Batman, Spiderman, Dukes of Hazzard) with built-in audieneces get spun into movies again and again, but new ideas/scripts/characters have to struggle to get backing.

It's a bleak future in my opinion.

Even the museum states it's important to emphasize that there is a significant difference. The line in the catalog is wholly dishonest.

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