Author Archives: shimon herzog

Posts by shimon herzog

The High Cost of Cheap Art

In Raymond Williams’s piece “Culture is ordinary,” he writes :


But why, says Sir George Mammon, should I support a lot of doubtful artists? Why, says Mrs. Mink, should I pay good money to educate, at my expense, a lot of irresponsible and ungrateful State scholars? The answer, dear sir, dear madam, is that you don’t. On your own – learn your size- you could do practically nothing. We are talking about a method of common payment, for common services; we too shall be paying. (p. 90)



How does Raymond Williams consider art to be something that is for the common good? Is art a “common service” that should be paid for with a “method of common payment”? Should every artist that creates art be sponsored? Who should decide what art is worth public funding?

Comments by shimon herzog

"Frank Sibley’s “Aesthetic Concepts Frank Sibley’s “Aesthetic Concepts” tries to delineate the difference between aesthetic qualities and non-aesthetic qualities. One of Sibley’s central points is that aesthetic terms can only be understood using language and terms that are aesthetic. There is no real way to grasp an aesthetic concept using non-aesthetic terms. This has to do with the fundamental difference between aesthetic and non-aesthetic concepts and the type of knowledge and language required to describe an aesthetic concept. An aesthetic quality, like the feel of an object, is vastly different from a non-aesthetic quality, such as intelligence. Sibley describes how each of these concepts requires a different type of thought process. Aesthetic and non-aesthetic qualities use different explanations, and come to conclusions about the concepts using different methods. In order to come to an aesthetic conclusion, one might need to place importance on very miniscule details that can allow different aesthetic terms to be applied. For example, even a small drop of red used in a very dark or pale painting can make a huge difference in the feeling of the painting and the aesthetic description. With a non-aesthetic concept, such as intelligence, other qualities such as how well the person scores on exams, how well they play chess, and their memory can create a checklist of qualities that describe intelligence. To explain this point further, Sibley poses a situation of a person who is intelligent, but lacks aesthetic talent, and describes how that person will have a difficult time bluffing the aesthetic qualities that are being portrayed in the art."
--( posted on Nov 21, 2013, commenting on the post Frank Sibley, “Aesthetic concepts” )
"Shimon Herzog A Woman Artist Nochlin’s article discusses the question and theories that attempted to answer: “why have there been no great women artists.” Nochlin dismisses the vast array of theories to answer the question, from the extremely sexist to the feminist theories. On one side of the spectrum, the sexist theory for why there are no great female artists is that human beings with wombs are unable to create anything that is significant. On the other end of the spectrum, the feminist approach to explain why there is are no great female artists is that women create a different kind of great art. Nochlin dismisses both of these approaches to the question because they do not address the essence of the question. Nochlin argues that it is incorrect to state that great women artists are different than great men artists. There are many other examples of different arbitrary groups that do not have any greats, e.g. there are no great Lithuanian jazz players or Eskimo tennis players. It is incorrect to say that these examples do have greats, because it is a fact that they do not. In addition, in the same way that great women writers, such as Sylvia Plath and Bronte’s style of writing is comparable to that of their male counterparts, women artists can be compared to men artists in their respective time periods. The reason that there have not been great women in art, according to Nochlin has to do with the lack of opportunities for women in the art. She argues that it is incorrect to believe that art is different from any other field that requires proper training and opportunities. It is incorrect to assume that great artists are born great, and that they are a type of genius who are born with mysterious powers which makes them great artists. Every artist was a student or apprentice to a different artist and some also had a family background of artists. Nochlin argues that these types of educational institution were not available to woman as readily as men. Not only did artists that were already established look for men apprentices, only males in the family were taught art, and art school only accepted males. Moreover, even when women were able to study art, they came from families that were extremely wealthy. These women were only able to study art as a hobby, and not as a profession that they would have to support themselves with. According to Nochlin, it is this lack of training opportunities that explains why there have not been great female artists."
--( posted on Nov 14, 2013, commenting on the post Linda Nochlin, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” )
"How do you feel about what my definition of understanding a work of art in comparison to what Frances Berenson is saying in his article?"
--( posted on Nov 7, 2013, commenting on the post Frances Berenson, “Understanding Art and Understanding Persons” )
"my first essay in this class Shimon Herzog “The Art of Understanding” In order to ‘understand a work of art,’ a person first has to deconstruct at least two major aspects of this task: what is a work of art, and what does it mean to understand. Webster’s online dictionary defines a work of art as: “a product of one of the fine arts; especially a painting or sculpture of high artistic quality; or something giving high aesthetic satisfaction to the viewer or listener.” To understand is defines as “to perceive the meaning of; comprehend, to be familiar with; have a thorough knowledge of, to interpret or comprehend in a specified way, to grasp the significance or importance of, to regard as agreed or settled; assume, to learn or hear, to infer, to accept something tolerantly or sympathetically, to have knowledge about a particular subject.” With a standard definition of these two concepts understanding a work of art is clearly something that is multi-faceted, and different people choose different definitions when they want to discuss their ‘understanding of a work of art.’ One way of understanding a work art is to know the history of it and knowing its creator. As mentioned above, one of the definitions of a work of art, is something of “high artistic quality.” This definition can be ascribed by either the artists themselves or anyone viewing the piece of work. If the definition for understanding is taken here to mean “to interpret or comprehend in a specified way,” this too can be ascribed by either the artist or the viewer. One important way through which an artist’s frame of mind can be deconstructed is by having knowledge of the artist and knowledge of the types of works, events, and history that influenced the artist. For example, when trying to understand the late paintings of Frans Hals, the viewer is able to understand the work better by knowledge of the artist’s life. The paintings are those of the Governors and the Governesses of an Alms House which were officially commissioned portraits. Knowing that Frans Hals lived in poverty provides a lens to understand why and how Frans Hals made those paintings. Some art critics view this painting as Hals own critique of the wealthy. In the same way, understanding the background of Frans Hals’ life also explains the types of debates critics have of his work. Other art critics, knowing his background, explicitly disagree that the paintings have a subtle form of critique and just not that the paintings are dark. In this manner, we see that knowledge of the history of the painting and its creator helps the viewer understand the artistic debates people have about their understanding of a work of art. Another way in which a work of art can be understood is by knowing the intended audience of a piece of work. In this understanding, the definition of a work of art that is most applicable is “something giving high aesthetic satisfaction to the viewer or listener,” and the ‘understanding’ as perceiving a meaning of something. From this point of analysis, the ability to understand a work of art is placed on the audience. Different audiences with different ways of understanding will perceive the meaning of the work of art in different ways. For example, for the Barnes collection, the creator of the Barnes foundation had a specific way of arranging the pieces of art in the collection he owned so that it would have a specific meaning for him and for the people he wanted to see the collection. He was very particular about who he wanted the audience of the collection to be, even though he was not the artist who ‘created’ the works of art. For Barnes, the audience and the ways they would give meaning to the works of art was of utmost importance – even more important than how the artist may have wanted the works of art to be understood. Ways of understanding a work of art depend on a variety of factors. As described, its creator, the audience of the work of art, art critics, or any other number of people, can define a work of art. The different histories of the people involved in the ‘understanding’ of the work, influence the way in which the work will be analyzed. Furthermore, an ‘understanding’ of a work of art can include a number of meanings, which include perceiving the significance of a work, having knowledge of the work, or providing one’s own interpretation of a work."
--( posted on Nov 7, 2013, commenting on the post Frances Berenson, “Understanding Art and Understanding Persons” )
"What is quite interesting about art according to Benjamin is that in this new age of reproduction, art that would usually be connected with a religious structure can now be seen without the added religious orientation which contextualizes the piece. When a piece of work is removed from its religious framework, it loses some of its religious undertones and the added layer, or in some cases the primary layer, of meaning of the piece of work. In my personal experience, the works of Michelangelo's holy scenes from the Bible on the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel are a prime example of a work of art whose meaning is provided through the actual space it inhabits. Until recently, I did not know that the Sistine chapel was in the Vatican which also houses the Pope. While it may be true that the fact I did not know the Sistine chapel was in the Vatican reflects my own ignorance, but it is also a prime example of how the separation of a work of art from its religious entity does not necessarily diminish the aesthetic value for the piece. After finding out that the Sistine Chapel houses the Pope, my view of the art has not changed. I fully appreciated the paintings on the Sistine Chapel as works of art based on the Biblical stories, i.e. a work of art that is completely religious in nature. It is perhaps because the very works are based on Biblical stories that knowledge of its placement in the Vatican did not change much of the meaning of the work of art. In one sense, the fact that we as a society can reproduce art and have the reproductions circulate around the world since people do not have to spend thousands of dollars to travel and appreciate the culture and arts of different societies. With the power of reproduction, we can all access art worldwide, and in a way make it more democratic by making it available to people who would otherwise never be able to see it. While I do not want to argue that divorcing art from its space is the optimal way to appreciate art, I do believe it is better to appreciate a decontextualized work of art than not appreciate it at all (or at least not having the means to appreciate it). Perhaps, a 'semi-authentic' feel for a work of art such as the ceilings of the Sistine chapel could be recreated by recreating the space of the art in other exhibitions, such as reproducing a church ceiling with the paintings in a museum. While this is not always possible, it is another way in which art can be reproduced, while maintaining some sense of the space it occupies without traveling to the Vatican."
--( posted on Nov 6, 2013, commenting on the post Walter Benjamin )
--( posted on Sep 22, 2013, commenting on the post The High Cost of Cheap Art )
"“Art and Civilization” by John Dewey In this this chapter author John Dewey attempts to delineate the role of art beyond the experience of the individual, its influence on culture and its contribution to “civilization”. He writes, “Art is often distrusted because of its roots in imaginative creativity. A civilization’s art and culture is construed broadly in terms of its morals.” Hence, what Dewey really means to say is that art cannot be used as a source in the study of civilizations because of its inclinency to portray the author’s personal his or her own opinions and their understanding of morals. • My question to you is whether or not art can be considered a great resource in one’s intellectual arsenal to understand a civilization and its culture? • Or is it a deterring source, on which we cannot rely because of its strictly individualistic understanding of the civilization? One can understand a society by studying its morals. Morals are not an individual’s view, but the way someone identifies with the outside world, and particularly their own society. This is explained by Shelley, “the great secret of morals is love, or a going out of our nature and the identification of ourselves with the beauty which exists in thought, action, or person.” Art can be used to understand a civilization and its culture, since art is one way of measuring a society’s morals. Artists create art within the confines of the society’s morals in which they live. At the same time, artists are the ideal observers of society since they are not constrained by creating something that is either praiseworthy or not. As Shelley and Dewey explain, art is morals, and morals are “the creation of the good.” “Because art is wholly innocent of ideas derived from praise and blame, it is looked upon with the eyes of suspicion by the guardians of custom …yet this indifference to praise and blame because of preoccupation with imaginative experience constitutes the heart of the moral potency of art.” In order to study a society you need to look at the society from an outsider’s point of view. An artists is not an outsider of his society, but he has the unique ability to look at his society through an outsider’s eye. The artist has the ability to look at the morals of his society and create art about their society. Art is therefore an important way we can understand a society. One example of the way that artists respond to the morals of their society through art can be seen in the ways that artists depict scenes from their religion in their artwork. The way Jesus is drawn by societies throughout history, illustrate the ways that different societies felt about their religion. At first Jesus and the crucifixion were depicted as a martyr’s death scene, and he wasn’t shown suffering. Centuries later, the iconic figure of Jesus was the man suffering on the cross. This change in the way that artists depicted Jesus shows how society changed from viewing the death Jesus as a positive force in the world, to the view of cruelty against Jesus. Author Dewey referred to Shelley’s theory that moral science only “arranges elements that poetry has created.” He also furthers his point by saying that “’intellectual’ products formulate the tendencies of these arts and provide them with an intellectual base.” • The question that follows this thought is to what extents do intellectual thoughts and theories influence art? • Is art intellectual or, in theory, an expression of the emotions of the artist and subject? The extent to which intellectual thoughts and theories influence art is dependent on what art means. Art is both intellectual and an expression of emotions of an artist and a subject. One important factor of something being characterized as intellectual is that there is something to be observed and someone that can observe it. The pinnacle of an intellectual act would be art because it has an observer and an object which is being observed."
--( posted on Sep 16, 2013, commenting on the post Art: Beyond the Experience of the Individual and it Role in Society )
"Why have the authors decided to leave this information out? Would the readers of these articles view the situation differently if presented with such information or would it not make a difference? In the article “Moving Pictures,” Peter Schjeldahl does not mention anything about The Art of Stealing. In the article “Victory,” Martin Filler does mention The Art of Stealing. Schjeldal tries to explain that the Barnes collection was moved to a new and more technologically advanced location. His article does not deal with the topic of the art collection, aside from mentioning that it was moved. In Filler’s article, Barnes is described as a greedy old man who wanted to hide his collection from the world. Barnes became rich by using “a more technically adept colleague” and then subsequently ”bought him out.” This led him to be rich. Filler also paints Barnes as a egotist by saying that the reason that Barnes started collecting art was so that he would assemble a “far more significant collection,“ than his friend Peter Widener. Barnes bitter character is seen by the fact that he “spitefully barred” critics from the gallery, but allowed “Cub Scout packs and odd working Joes” to “roam the galleries.” It would make a difference to the arguments of the articles if the information was presented in a positive light. In The Art of Stealing, we see that Barnes had good reasons for keeping the collection for students and not allowing everyone else access. Could one argue that although the collection was moved, Barnes’ wishes are still being respected? To what extent is it significant that the collection has been relocated if the experience has been preserved? In every respect, it seems that Barnes’s wishes were not fulfilled. The Barnes foundation was meant to be an educational institution. These pieces of art were only supposed to be seen by the young students of the Barnes foundation, because Barnes despised the pretentiousness of the art critics and collectors of his day, particularly the way that they scoffed at his taste in art. While those who moved the collection would like to argue that the experience of the Barnes collection and its order was preserved, the collection was intended for the few that Barnes deemed worthy to access the artwork that he owned, such as the students of the Barnes Foundation. It therefore does not make a difference, nor is it significant, if the collection was preserved in its order or manner of display, if the audience it was intended for was not maintained."
--( posted on Sep 10, 2013, commenting on the post Does it really matter? )