I have a confession to make: I am a philistine when it comes to art. (Here is another confession: I had to look up the word philistine to be sure I was using it correctly, and since I’m still not sure I am, I guess I’m a philistine in literary matters as well.)
I know what I like, as that stupid saying goes; I know what I don’t like, but I’m not too sure how you tell what is really great art and what is not. And reading the article about Andy Warhol in the New Yorker isn’t helping at all.
One guy says in order to recognize that Warhol’s Brillo boxes (for which he was sued by the graphic designer of the logo, which would have made quite an interesting court case (is it art or is it plagiarism?) if the guy hadn’t died soon after) are art, you have to understand art. Is a snake biting its tail in all of that?
But then another guy says that abstract art came along out of necessity, to show that manufactured stuff, like cute little big-eyed children or Hello Kitty stuff (or paintings of Brillo boxes?) isn’t art. But then what are you supposed to think when you come across a shovel in a museum?
It has always struck me as odd that you need theories to understand art. I can tell the difference between good writing and bad writing, good acting and bad acting, good movies and bad movies. I can do this without knowing any theories whatsoever; though it’s sometimes hard to explain my reasons. Somehow you just know.
I think the art appreciation part of my brain must be missing – maybe it’s in the same area as face recognition. In fact, rather than say I’m a philistine, let’s just say I’m prosopagnostic about art.