February 16, 2013
I agree with Crispin Sartwell's assessment that the "authorities at the upper end of the art world" can lead us into the "worst of all possible aesthetic worlds." Like him, I am not a fan of Jeff Koons' art, except perhaps as an enormous joke at the expense of the all-too-precious art world.
I regret, however, that Sartwell did not say outright that good art does exist and that it enlightens and elevates us personally and culturally. Although it is often impossible for contemporaries to escape the magnetism of mass opinion and distinguish good art from passing fads, it is important for us to know that good art exists and that it is still possible for humanity to be elevated by art.
David Del Bourgo
Thanks to Sartwell for besmirching my doctorate and everyone else's. If his doctorate in aesthetics allows him to pronounce, without discussion, that "Fast Five" is a better film than "Lincoln," then I'm glad mine is in such jejune subjects as history, classics and religious studies.
Sartwell's pronouncement that "your own actual preferences are more or less as good as anyone else's" confirms the postmodernist relativism that many outside the academy, and some of us within it, decry.
Besides, who cares if Koons' Popeye sculpture is or isn't worth $4 million? Sartwell's discussion shows that his aesthetic concerns about the sculpture, though warranted, have bought into the materialist notion that art's value lies in its monetary evaluation.
High-end art experts exist for the same reason as Moody's or Standard & Poor's: to provide stable, consistent standards for the valuation of unique products. Their clients — wealthy collectors — are as interested in tax write-offs as in living with the art.
Advice to trust "our" own taste is beside the point — and in the case of Ronald Perelman, who bought the Popeye sculpture for $4 million, laughably naive.
Copyright © 2013, Los Angeles Times