Can anything be art?

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What do you think of when you see a banana taped on a wall? What about a urinal in a public space? While you may be thinking that these sound just like random things, what they have in common is that they are known for being innovative pieces of contemporary art.  

Sometimes this kind of art is called “modern art,” but technically modern art refers to the period between 1898-1905, where artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso were popularized, and art began to shift from realism to focus on things such as cubism. However, in recent critiques of modern art, many refer to the recent trend of contemporary or minimalist art, where very minimal effort seems to be put into the artwork. While this has been heavily criticized for its absurdity and randomness, many argue that this new era of art evokes new emotions that have never been discovered through art before. 

Before critiquing art, it is important to understand what makes art subjectively “good” or “bad.” Some may argue that good art is not about the technical aspect, but rather that the emotion that has been evoked through the piece is what makes art, art. For instance, Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, where he placed a urinal in a museum, is still considered art. Although there was no technical skill required to make the piece, the action of putting a urinal in a museum and declaring that it is his art is art in itself.

However, while all art that has meaning behind it is good art, some may argue that not all art belongs in a museum. For instance, art needs to have some sort of skill that goes into making that piece for it to be considered museum-worthy. Art museums should not be filled with paintings that are just one solid color, or candy wrappers taped to the wall. While it is important for some absurd art to be in museums, there should still be some exhibits where you are enticed by the art and think, “I could never paint something like that.” Still, as one staff reporter says, “Good art doesn’t require an explanation. If you put hours into a painting and it doesn’t provoke anything in me then I don’t care.” 

Another question raised by contemporary art is the true intentions of artists. As with everything else, people will always jump on trends for a chance to gain fame or fortune. This happened with the clothing industry, when every high-end brand began to make extremely absurd pieces of clothing, just to overprice them and claim them as luxury items. Many began to speculate and worry if that same pattern is being repeated with art. There are countless ways to display and share your art, especially with the rise of social media. Art has been turned into a status symbol, and everything that is done in the art world is for the shock value. 

The argument about whether modern art is good or bad is almost impossible to answer; art is subjective. Everyone has their own interpretation, and while this new era of art may fit into some people’s definition of art, it may not fit into everyone’s. Regardless, it looks like this style of art is here to stay, so instead of disregarding it, maybe it’s time to try to understand it. 

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