Fred on (not) Art

Fred Reed hits another one out of the park – this time on modern art and art critics.

Art is mostly fraud perpetrated by narcissistic academic quacks on a public easily gulled. They should be prosecuted. This is as true of literature as of painting and sculpture. If modern sculpture were placed in a junkyard, art critics couldn’t find it.

. . .

Suppose a budding art critic visiting a museum discovers by chance his plumber, who is looking with admiration at, say, David’s Leonidas. This makes sense, never a good thing in art criticism. The Leonidas is a good paining, and looks like an actual person.

The critic is horrified. You can’t be a refined authority with a pince-nez and limp handshake and like what a plumber likes, for God’s sake. To distinguish himself from hoi poloi, he has to like something that his plumber doesn’t. So he starts appreciating maybe Modigliani, whose paintings sort of look like people but, finding that too many ordinary Joes like the guy, the critic moves on to perhaps Braque and Picasso. If you can like pictures of square people with three noses, you separate yourself from most of the competition. Not from third-graders, though, who have always done that sort of thing.

You see the critic’s progression. To maintain superiority, he has to appreciate ever worse daubs, so that he can be increasingly alone in his exalted insight. The up-and-coming critic goes through Mondrian, who painted what would normally be considered linoleum patterns, and arrives at Kandinsky, who sold his drop-cloths.

There is nothing worse than Kandinsky. The critic who appreciates him has reached the pinnacle.

. . .

I once took my daughter Emily, then seven, to the Hirshorn Gallery on the mall in Washington. The building looks like half of a 55-gallon oil drum made of concrete. Buildings ugly as warts are more advanced than those that are attractive and therefore pleasing to people with commons sense. Outside there is a Sculpture Garden, full of headless bronze torsos, some with gaping holes in them, and blobbish people without the usual supply of arms and legs. We are not talking the Nike of Samothrace. The impression is that a vocational school held a welding contest, and everybody lost. Tourists from Kansas walk through, apparently wondering whether they have somehow fallen into an asylum.

Inside we found inexplicable blotches and stripes. One in particular was a huge canvas, mostly of an off-white that suggested that it needed washing, with a sort of rust-colored circle in one corner. I asked Em what she thought of it.

Her analysis: “A red dot. Big deal. Gag me.”

There’s more at the link.  Don’t miss it.  Fred’s at his acerbic best.



  1. We visited a museum in town here that had one exhibit that was bolts of fabric stretched out across the floor. We made very short work of that room. Sadly, it was one of the largest exhibit spaces in the museum. Even my wife, who works at a fabric store wasn't impressed.

    Luckily, The Whitney Gallery of Western art is just 100 miles down the road.

  2. Went to the Art Institute of Chicago. In one room, on the floor is a black patch of tile about 4' x 4'. Nearby an attendant stands all day, warning people not to step on the Art. To add insult to injury, the poor guy has to put up with a video loop of an angry clown screaming gibberish that is displayed on the wall of the room. In case one might think I am too ignernt to have an opinion, I actually have a (worthless) Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

  3. Art is really just like a gauge in a car, it only shows what is going on under the hood of society. Western civilization is in a downward spiral and art clearly shows what is going on.

  4. Sunnybrook Farm's comment is spot on – and probably what Fred was trying – unsuccessfully – to get at.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *