Saturday, September 28, 2019

On The Value of Art -- An Essay on Contemporary Art

On The Evolution of The Value of Art

A facet of "contemporary art" that is especially interesting to me is the concept of moving away from the academic study of technique towards a more experimental, gestural, feeling-driven style of creating. The first time that this was introduced to me was when I learned of Whistler's "Nocturne in Black and Gold – The Falling Rocket." At that time in American art, realism and technique determined the perceived quality and value of art. Whistler's piece caused great unrest, seen as messy, unfinished, and unprofessional. Whistler fought back against these critiques, arguing that art need not be qualified on mere imitative success.

I believe that this painting and especially the kind of dialogue that surrounded it helped to pave the way for a facet of more recent contemporary art that I value most--its departure from value based on realism. Even today, this is a feature of a large portion of contemporary art that is used to devalue the art as a cohesive movement. What draws people to Damián Ortega's "Congo River?" What possible artistic value could a piece such as Günther Förg's "Ohne Titel" provide? There is no outstanding detail, no immediate indication of magnificent technical prowess. Looking to "Congo River" in the mindset of an artist from past times, the sculpture does not at first sight appear as anything close to "art." "Ohne Titel" seems to be little more than a few scribbles of paint on a canvas. But this is exactly the type of language that contemporary artists have grown deaf to.

The value of art is directly correlated to the definition of art, which is a fluctuating, multifaceted, individually-determined concept. Contemporary art moves away from the limiting definition of art that associates value with realism, focusing more on ideas, feelings, and evoking a certain reaction from the viewer. The art interacts with the artist, fueled by more than a desire to recreate. This new definition and system of valuation allows for a much broader, and richer, assortment of creations, unbridled by the cages of realism and technique-driven appraisals of worth. As contemporary artists, individuals are able to create without giving weight to arbitrary definitions of worth.


Floryan, Meg. “Whistler, Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket.” Khan Academy, Khan Academy,

Förg, Günther. Ohne Titel. 2008. Acrylic and oil on canvas. Galerie Forsblom, Stockholm.

Ortega, Damián. Congo River. 2012. Rubber car tires. White Cube Gallery, London.

Lee, Patina. “Can We Find the Remnants of Realism in Contemporary Art ?” Widewalls, 2016,

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