Art Theories

Q: What art theories of today are going to reverse the marginalization of visual art and help it survive into the future?

A: I think this marginalization has gone about as far as possible, and that the rubber band is due to snap back. With the advent of the internet, artists of today have an unprecedented opportunity to disseminate their work worldwide, much like the one that actors and musicians began to enjoy when movies and recordings became a means for them to reach a larger world. I don’t think that theories alone are going to revitalize the art world, in the absence of works of art able to communicate in visual terms. Few people are very interested in any but their own pet theories, and there is so little about these that is amenable to rational discussion that talking about them amounts to a waste of time. People choose art theories according to their pre-existing views, and to rationalize their feelings about the art they happen to like. Hence I have hardly ever seen anybody’s mind change due to any amount of theoretical discussion of art. As long as art appreciation remains as thoroughly subjective as it has been, this does not seem likely to change.

But any theory that would help art find its way and have an impact longer than a transitory fad would have to find a way to successfully deal with issues such as the nature of Beauty and the Beauty of Nature, which has long been the major inspiration for the world’s artists and will continue to be in the future, especially as humanity learns to place itself within, rather than outside it. The fine art of the present is only beginning to find ways to communicate to a large audience; it seems that the future will make this easier.

Up to this point, the art world has been a small one, controlled by an elite group of tastemakers—the curators, critics, and editors who decided, from year to year, what was in or out. Individual artists have become mere raw material for the theory-spinners and trend-spotters. From my perspective, their theories have acted like filters, allowing them to appreciate only the art that happens to fit their preconceptions. Perhaps when the art world becomes more decentralized, people will feel more comfortable with art that has not yet been officially discovered and certified. Or perhaps we will nominate a supercomputer, programmed with all the latest theories, to choose the lucky winners of fame and fortune by tirelessly visiting all the artist’s websites worldwide…

by Andrew Werby