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As a student of the Tom Wolfe school of art criticism , I have a natural preference for works of realism and an enthusiastic disdain for abstract works that require an interpretive Theory. This is not to say, of course, that I can’t appreciate abstract art. There are some works of abstract expressionism that I find quite appealing (especially when they include cheeky pranks like Jackson Pollack embedding his name in a painting ).

But what I can’t stomach is the inexplicably popular, yet aesthetic and intellectually lazy, pieces of Duchamp-style readymade art. A prime example is Jeff Koons’s “Three Ball Total Equilibrium Tank” which is nothing more than . . . three basketballs in a fish tank.

When English school kids viewed this piece at the Tate Liverpool, film director Mike Figgis was on hand to capture their reactions. Most of the teens struggle (naturally) trying to think of something intelligent to say about such a bland work. Some of them may have actually be moved by the piece, though I think they are probably just trying to appear sophisticated and avoid being smeared as young philistines.

Encouragingly, many of them admit that they find it to be a bunch of nonsense. It is, after all, merely three basketballs. In a fish tank.

My favorite reaction is the girl who says:

I’d like to smash it . . . Because I hate ready-made art. When I have to slave away everyday drawing and I have talent and people can make millions of pounds by putting basketballs in a tank.

Indeed. Dunk a basketball in a hoop or a fish tank and no one will care. But if a celebrity does it in a sports stadium or in a fish tank, they can make millions. Celebrity is our culture’s highest artform, and the only one that we truly value.

(Via: Open Culture )

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