In his response to Jean Clair's article, Arthur Danto makes a reference
to Hegel by way of introduction; "It is true that in Hegel's view,
art is a superceded moment of Absolute Spirit, and it is in this sense
that Hegel famously pronounces the end of art. Its mission, in Hegel's
system, is to be taken over by metaphysics." It is not entirely
obvious how this fits into the context of twentieth century art after
another paragraph (which I have mercilessly truncated) Danto says: "Closing
the gap between art and life .. Pop refused to countenance a distinction
between fine and commercial, or between high and low art. ...nothing
an artist made could carry meanings more profound than those evoked
by everyday garments, fast food, car parts, street signs. Each of these
efforts aimed at bringing art down to earth, and transfiguring, through
artistic consciousness, what everyone already knows."
Click to enlarge
Marylin Monroe, 1967
approach was to appropriate something (a graphic design) that was already
art (though categorized as "commercial art") and offer it
as high, avant-garde, fine, or "business" art (take your pick
of terms). Thus the only thing the context changed was the price...and
the "autograph." Instead of appreciating the value of the
label as art (sending us out to grocery store shelves to "collect"
it for a few dollars) the result only reaffirmed the power of the art-world
to assign arbitrary value and make it believable.
"nothing an artist made could carry meanings more profound 'than
events or objects from everyday life'" (a suggestion Duchamp once
made on viewing a propeller) and if these are things "everyone
already knows" what is this "artistic consciousness"
that we seem to need to "transfigure" .... why does it need
transfiguring anyway? Do we need artists to tell us what we already
it possible that by closing the gap between art and life it is art that
becomes irrelevant? If art cannot provide an insight into life, a fresh
view of the quotidian or a clarification of its value and meaning....if
it just shows it to us and asks us to celebrate its dull uniformity,
glossy chic or garish banality as it is -and as the best life can offer-why
would we need art at all? Danto says; "I saw it as the task of
aesthetics to show how to distinguish art works from real things when
there was no visible or palpable difference between them." But
haven't we already arrived at the position that now there is no difference?
"Art" is indistinguishable from any other commercial product
or media sensation except as a speculative or investment vehicle for
the very rich.
have been many moments in the art of both East and West when artists
called attention to everyday life and common objects. In every case
either our attention was directed to something important about them,
something uncommonly noticed, or their use as material transformed by
the artist into a newly insightful event. In no case was the value seen
to inhere in their triviality. It is a bit ironic that the distinctly
non-trivial work of Duchamp has been used as pretext by generations
of artists intent on making triviality a career path. The trivial has
not been transfigured but everything else, even rage and disgust, has
been trivialized. But then, as Danto has pointed out before, art has
ended. It has not, however, become metaphysics.