Julian Spalding’s “Con Art” and ‘Untitled’: a weekend double feature!

by Sonny Bunch on March 29, 2012

Julian Spalding, whose new e-book “Con Art” is now out, has a column in the U.K.’s Independent on the subject of what constitutes art; a taste:

If you want a pickled shark in a tank, you don’t have to pay the $12m Steve Cohen paid for the one selected by Hirst. You only pay that much for the artistic content that Hirst has added to it. If there isn’t any, what are you buying? You could argue that you are buying an investment. But that depends on people in the future valuing the artistic content in your shark even more highly than you do. If they don’t, what are you left with? A shark in a tank, which is what you bought.

I’ve coined the term Con Art, short for contemporary conceptual art and for art that cons people. Contemporary conceptual art? All art is a concept in the sense that it’s the product of thought. But all art must also be a creation. You have to be able to see art; it can’t just be a projected thought. That’s how the emperor got dressed; his expensive robes were all in the minds of people around him, when in reality he had nothing on. …

The trouble with found objects is that you can’t tell just by looking at them what the person who put them in front of you is trying to tell you unless he or she has altered them in some meaningful way. Nor does the act of placing something in an art gallery, whether it’s a stack of bricks, a bin bag or an unmade bed, automatically make it a work of art, any more than framing a canvas with paint on it automatically makes it a painting. Art can be made out of anything, as Picasso famously demonstrated when he put a bicycle saddle and handlebars together and made a bull’s head, but art has to be made.

His piece reminds me of Untitled, a 2009 indie comedy that takes a shiv to the pretentious world of modern art. The movie is streaming on Netflix; when it came out, I had kind words for the movie and angry words for conservatives who were busy adopting the pose of grievance merchants. I stand by both my column and Untitled.

Anyway, if you’re looking for something to do this weekend, you could do worse than checking out Spalding’s ebook and Untitled. Might make for a nice little double feature, of a kind.

(Hat tip to Alan Jacobs for alerting me to the Spalding column.)

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: