Sunday 9 March 2008

Hirst's £50m skull

All art relies on context.

A fuss about Damien Hirst's diamond-encrusted human skull again, reported in the Independent yesterday:
Yesterday, Ralph Rugoff, director of the Hayward Gallery in London, issued a devastating critique of the work's artistic merit, discounting it as a "decorative object"
Now, I'm on dangerous ground here, I've no expertise in art and no artistic training and I'm not claiming to be able to make any judgement on a work of art, but it seems to me that the value of any art is to large degree to do with context. This is most obvious with conceptual art. Duchamp's urinal takes on its artistic significance from what it is presented as, where it is and what is said about it, as much (or more) than what it is in itself. But I'd like to argue that this is true to some degree of all art. Yes, of course, there is skill and craftsmanship in 'traditional' art, but skill and craftsmanship alone does not create a work of art. The art comes from the understanding of the context that the artist brings to their work, a context shared with the audience. This links closely with what David Weinberger was saying about the 'unsaid' (see my comments in an earlier post). He talked through an example of a poem.

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