Guggenheim Visit

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

Every time I go to the Guggenheim, I leave convinced that I or anyone who knows how to sell themselves can reasonably call themselves an artist. Motherwells and Kadinskys assault me with their lack of talent and vision as I was about. They don’t desrve to be grouped in with figures like Picasso, who may have produced some crappy art but was at least an innovator. No feeling heaves from their works as it does from Van Gogh’s overwhelming canvases. Kadinsky’s “Ribbon with Squares (Ruban aux carres)” (1944) and I stand face-to-face. I can’t even work up enough emotion to say I dislike it. It’s simply boring. In class we’ve come to the fuzzy definition that “Art” (pronounced in a bourgeois accent) is something that elicits feeling, positive or no. However, when mediocrities like Kadinsky fail to draw forth emotion, does his work lose the sanctified title of art? I was surrounded by mostly tourists while at the museum and though I couldn’t understand all of the conversations, it seemed that very few people were having real reactions to the work about us. The majority of visitors gazed dead-eyed for a few minutes at one piece before shuffling along in line to the next. It seemed more a production line than a celebration of the arts. If I’m right in thinking that we visitors all remained aloof it seems to follow that art can exist without having skill, reactions, uniqueness, and all the rest. Everything is art then and museums are rather pointless institutions. My scribblings have just as much right to hang in the Guggenheim as Motherwell’s. I defy the average museum patron to tell me what makes his work “art” and my work not. I doubt I’d get a satisfactory answer. Yet, as much as I may want to make such statements about the futility of museums, I know them to be inherently false. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but there is something that vaunts certain pieces over others. At a museum like the Met, I find myself understanding why the pieces hanging are up there on the walls. They may not always be the greatest pieces of art but they’ve all fought for their right to hang. I think the Guggenheim simply suffers from the fact that it deals mostly in contemporary artists. Not enough time has passed for us to evaluate what’s truly art and what is but a pale imitation. Perhaps by the time I’m eighty the Kadinskys will have been sifted out and the Guggenheim will be able to present a better picture of what art really meant and was during this period.