Art is a funny thing. It’s a subject I frequently think about, and yet despite that I can never quite make up my mind what I think about it. For example, I really enjoy drawing and painting (even though I’m not brilliant at either), and yet I find a large number of artists intensely irritating.
There is an ‘artwork’ in the Tate Modern which is essentially a double-page spread from the Daily Star (or a similar tabloid) cut into quarters and framed. Personally, I fail to see the ‘art’ in this. Apart from a couple of neat cuts across the paper, the artist has done virtually nothing. The layout is the same, the content the same (I assume – it has just occurred to me that it could be a mock-up of a tabloid in which case most of my complaints are rendered invalid) and all the artist has done is frame the paper.
Then of course comes the nature of art itself. What distinguishes ‘art’ from an everyday picture? What makes art so valuable, or rather, what is it that is so valuable (in a financial sense) about art? Take this story for example.
Banksy's 'Gorilla in Pink Mask', recently painted over by mistake.
This raises a number of questions in my head. Firstly, why is Banksy’s work art, while most other peoples’ is considered graffiti, and therefore vandalism rather than valuable? (Don’t get me wrong, I like Banksy’s work, and I can also see that graffiti spoils an area, but there are also some very technically impressive pieces of graffiti almost wherever you go.) Secondly, given that Banksy’s work is done with a spray can and a stencil, couldn’t he simply re-do the artwork?
That, of course, brings us to another dilemma. How much of art’s value is down to the originality of the work? Would the fact that Banksy repainting his mural wasn’t the original, spontaneous act that it had been in the past mean that it was worth less? Following on from that, there comes a debate about forgery and originality rears its head there too. If a forger can create a near-identical copy of a famous artwork, is he/she not equally as talented as the original artist? Or does that lack of originality detract from the skill required? To me, some forgers have a greater amount of skill than the original artists due to the fact that they can replicate both the paintings and the techniques of more than one artist – a little like being able to imitate signatures, or possessing more than one set of fingerprints. The great irony is that some forgers become so good that their work becomes valuable and collectable in its own right.