Opinion: Conceptual Art is Losing its Touch

Conceptual+Art%3A+%22Not+Afraid+of+Love%22+by+Maurizio+Cattelan+%2F+Paris+2016+

Conceptual Art: "Not Afraid of Love" by Maurizio Cattelan / Paris 2016

Tyler Burkett, Writer

Art can be a beautiful expression of creativity and ingenuity that thoughtfully puts the best of humanity on display. Art isn’t the same for everyone and is defined differently throughout the world. With that being said, let’s dive into art that takes creativity and ingenuity and makes it seem obscure on the surface.

The piece I’ll draw my attention to first is called “Comedian” and was created by Maurizio Cattelan. Cattelan is an Italian artist who is labeled as “the art world’s resident jokester”, and has made pieces that can be unnerving and satirical in nature. His most recent innovation is simply a banana, or so it seems. 

“Comedian” by Maurizio Cattelan

 

A banana duct-taped to a wall and being sold for $120,000 isn’t the most thought out piece of art I’ve seen before. First off, that’s an entire bachelor’s degree worth of money at most colleges, and then some, thrown at a banana. Secondly, the banana will inevitably get old and wither up which will get quite disgusting. But hey, I’m not here to judge people’s taste in bananas, just your taste in art.

Currently, we live in an era of art called conceptual art that requires the viewer to look beyond the physical form of the piece and try and grasp what the artist is trying to convey, even though there is just a black square on a canvas.

Let’s go back to the beginning of conceptual art, where a man and a urinal were at the base of it all so that we can get a grasp on what conceptual art truly means and how it came to be today.

Marcel Duchamp sits beside his famous ready-made “Fountain”

 

Marcel Duchamp was a French American artist who lived in the early nineteenth to mid-twentieth century. He is recognized as an early conceptual artist and the father of ready-mades, mass-produced items repurposed to have a different, well, purpose.

One of Duchamp’s most famous works, “Fountain”, was submitted to the Society of Independent Artists under the guise of “R. Mutt” in 1917 which was headquartered in New York. The ready-made was denied entry to the art salon on the basis that, “a piece of sanitary work could not be considered a work of art.” 

Duchamp quit the Society of Independent Artists, of which he was a founding board member, and went on to create many more ready-made works throughout his life.

The urinal became a defining piece within the art community and branched the schools of thought pertaining to art in different ways than ever before imagined. Thus, conceptual art was established as a separate branch on the tree of art.

This branch appears to me to have more sway and flexibility as to what kind of leaves can grow on it. Specifically, bananas growing on, what I thought to be, an apple tree. 

We live in an era of art called conceptual art that requires the viewer to look beyond the physical form of the piece and try and grasp what the artist is trying to convey…”

— Tyler Burkett

Terrible analogies aside, I believe that most conceptual artists are trying to convey something but ultimately come up short to people such as myself when it’s finished and on display. Pieces like “Comedian” leave casual art viewers with more questions than answers. Questions such as “why is it just a banana?” or my personal favorite “It’s not art it’s just a banana.”

What I believe that Cattelan wanted out of the banana was attention. Mainly in the form of comic relief but also to get a reaction out of the viewers who see the banana. The fruit itself, I’ve come to think after staring at it pondering life’s greatest mysteries, isn’t the art. The art comes from the emotions of the viewers who see the banana and their reactions. 

I think that’s the purpose of conceptual art in general; it’s meant to be perceived differently based on past experiences, relationships and a person’s upbringing, among many other factors. It’s these factors that make us all unique and that uniqueness is put into our reaction to, in turn, make the art that much more unique.

 

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