John Simon, the often reviled but brilliant literary, theater, music, and film critic whose acerbic, barb-tongued, (too-)often just plain nasty commentary has appeared in such wide-ranging publications as The Hudson Review, The New Leader, The New Criterion, National Review, New York Magazine, Opera News, The Weekly Standard, and Bloomberg News and who now writes his own blog Uncensored John Simon has up on that blog a new article titled "Whither Art?" the "art" of the title referring to the fine arts generally but painting in particular. As we read the article it struck us that were one to substitute classical music along with mutatis mutandis adjustments everywhere painting is referred to, pretty much everything Mr. Simon has to say would read just as on-point. (In fact Mr. Simon himself suggests just that in one brief sentence in one brief paragraph: "The problem for most arts is that so very much has already been done in them, propelling more recent practitioners into horrible distortions, obscure byways, or downright dead ends. This is true also in music, otherwise we would have been spared Stockhausen, Cage, Glass and their likes." See also our August 2004 S&F entry titled "Whither Genuine Art?".) Writes Mr. Simon:
As I have often said and sometimes written, the history of art extends from Anonymous to Untitled, from when only the work mattered to where only the name in the signature does. What reminds me of this is a reproduction in The New York Times (10/16/12) of an untitled painting by Franz Kline, which, at the forthcoming auction, “is expected to bring $20 million to $30 million” and make me sick to my stomach. I recall a time, long ago, when Kline yelled at me at a party, “You are full of shit!”, and I replied, “Maybe, but at least I don’t smear it on canvas and peddle it as art.” Art today is the result of a tacit conspiracy among artists, art historians, art critics, art dealers, nabobs who don’t know what to do with their money, and all the people who don’t know anything about art. And why shouldn’t it fetch that much when the article about the Kline painting notes that one by Clyfford Still, resonantly entitled “1949-A-No. 1” went for $61.7 million? Even Clyfford with a Y should raise a cautionary eyebrow.Read the full text here.