What Makes Art Good or Bad? Essay

A straightforward question, what is good art? A complicated answer, but that is good art. How does a certain piece of artwork become recognized as “good? ” What are some of the traits that make art good? What simply makes art good, and what makes art bad, in general? Does having a recognizable art or design “style” limit one’s creativity? Is an exact reproduction as good as the original? It used to be that anything called “Art” had certain meaning attached to it. Art was assumed to be beautiful, intricate, and expensive, crafted with care by a master. Sometimes it told a story, or marked a special day or event.

Art was universally revered, instantly recognized, and generally approached with awe, while today it is looked at much differently. Now that’s good art, I remember saying to myself, under my breath, as I viewed one particular photo from the dozens of prints, paintings, photos and other pieces of art in an exhibit I once viewed. I looked at so many pieces of art that day, and saw so little. It made me begin to question my capabilities as a random viewer. Did I even know what made me happy or what even qualified as good art? Good art. What is good art? Of course, art itself is something different to everyone.

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What one person so boldly refers to as art of any kind can be simple rubbish in another’s mind? There are so many things, concepts, ideas and thoughts that are referred to as art that I simply could not fathom having in my home. Things I would consider as bad art would scare me, perhaps sicken me and at the least, and not even please me. Yet, to someone that piece is cherished and loved. So to speak of good art versus bad art, we must speak of that art of being universal in its appeal. Good art must be something that most everybody can enjoy and respect.

Few would be the pessimists when asked if the Starry Night by Van Gogh was a pleasing oil painting. It is universal, it appeals to all. The Last Supper, were we to remove any religious overtones, would still be a universal delight. These, as are so many, many others, are clearly good art. They portray life, as we are familiar with it. They tell a story, they solicit assessment and beckon all to view. Good art must have something to do with being able to please the masses. No matter color, texture, media, shape or size; good art must be pleasing to the greater majority of viewers to be considered good art.

Some people like a particular work simply because it pleases them. The colors, the shapes, the composition, all of it appeals to their senses. Or, they might enjoy a painting or sculpture because it’s worth a lot of money. They can feel the importance, the history of it, in the price tag or estimated value. And of course, an individual may like a work of art because a friend or expert has told them it’s good, and they just accept it. A person may dislike art for even the same or opposite reasons: It just doesn’t look nice; it’s not worth very much money; or someone has already told them that it’s not very good.

In addition, it’s very easy to compare works of art, and dislike one based on your feelings for the piece hanging on the wall right next to it. Possibly the easiest reaction to have, disinterest can be caused by confusion when looking at the work, or the viewer deciding that it doesn’t fit their idea of art and discounting it. It can also come from a decision against making the effort needed to understand the artwork, or just the fact that the piece doesn’t capture their attention. Unfortunately, with art being as commonplace as it is, many artists and art experts are looking more and more for uniqueness in art above anything else.

The art community tends to move from artist to artist, always searching for the cutting edge, the most daring, the strangest, even the obscene or shocking. As for the non-artists, they’re left in the dust unsure of why a particular work is special, and sometimes even lose that curiosity and awe they once felt when entering a gallery. They end up looking at price tags more than at the art itself and even begin to feel as though good art is just too deep and mysterious for their simple understanding. What we as art patrons need to realize, however, is that we’re just as qualified to judge whether art is good or bad as any art critic.

There’s no reason to sit back and nod appreciatively of a piece of trash hung in a gallery if in our heart we’ve already judged it to be a sham. Personally, I look at art for its ability to mystify me and to lure my gaze into its deepest and darkest colors. I want a piece of art to capture my gaze and to hold it. If a piece of art can be entertaining for as long as a 30-minute sitcom on television then I have found that piece of good art. We know the masters of art have provided us with untold numbers of pieces of good art.

We also know there are others, who may not be recognized as one of the “masters,” who are capable of fine art and have created it. I have even, on many an occasion, purchased good art that came into being at the hands of a totally unknown; yet, it was good art. It was good art because it entertained, it spoke to me and it welcomed me into its arms. There are many pieces of superior art from any particular artist, any virtual unknown, but any one artist who is clearly recognized in many personal circles is the one who appeals to the majority.

Many pieces of many different artists are highly in demand, yet fetch a paltry sum, and still they are high-quality art, because they communicate and they please. By looking for new strategies that would connect art with people, it seems to me that the abyss between the sacred creation of art and being recognized as an artist is getting wider. I think that art needs to connect more directly with all kinds of people or at least that art should be looked at with new eyes, and to achieve that we need new, less complacent and less passive strategies. Regarding later made “reproduced prints” being better than the originals…

Not necessarily so, not in the vast majority of cases. This is due to the fact that the quality of a reproduction stems from the capture process not the quality of printer technology. Files coming out of a studio can be printed on a $99 inkjet from OfficeMax and blow away many original pieces of artwork. That’s because the capture process is second to none and can look so alike the original. The facts are that it’s the galleries that have pushed the art community toward limited reproductions, not our artists. It’s not about the art anymore it’s about the money.

In today’s economy that is more important that admiring a simple piece of original art. The galleries want “exclusivity. ” I agree it is a coercion of value. But in this world of marketing, galleries need some sales pitch for the floor, limited editions have given them that hook. I feel that in today’s world the beauty behind the art has become no longer important. It’s all about how much value we can take from any one given resource. So, when asked, “Is an exact reproduction as good as the original? ” I do not think it matters in general. It only matters to the person viewing it.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as I have heard many times. Quite simply, it all matters to the person who is trying to form some connection with a particular piece of art if it matters or not whether it is original or a reproduction. •Boddy-Evans, Marion, What Makes a Painting Good or Bad? About. com Guide 8 August 2010 http://painting. about. com/cs/inspiration/a/goodart. htm •Graham, paul, How art can be good. 8 December 2006 http://www. paulgraham. com/goodart. html •Art Opinion, Good art or bad art: You decide 12 November 2006 http://emptyeasel. com/2006/11/12/good-art-or-bad-art-you-decide/


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