Thursday, October 18, 2012

Do You See What I See? - Art and Brand Names

What drives people to visit art museums? The art right? Well, hopefully that's the answer, but is it the art (the painting/drawing itself) or the brand name (daVinci, Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh)  that really draws the crowd? Do visitors really want to "look" at a painting; examine colors, composition, symbols, values, balance, or do they just want to "see" a da Vinci? I think the answer leans towards the "seeing" aspect of viewing an art object with a recognized brand name. If you're going to spend a few precious seconds of your time to look at a painting, it might as well be one that was created by a famous artist right?

What happens when that "famous" painting you think you're looking at is a fake?
Matisse Stolen Painting
Just take a look at the "Odalisque in Red Pants" fiasco that recently ended in Miami, FL. In the above picture, the original Matisse is on the left, and the fake on the right. The painting was swapped at some point between 1997 and 2000. The real zinger here is that the fake was hung in its place, and went unnoticed for years! For YEARS! Clearly the fake's color is more saturated, the stripes in the lower right-hand corner don't match up, the flowers are off, and there's a s$#t-brown stain on the wall. It's one thing for a visitor not to notice the differences between the two paintings, but it's quite striking to think that the museums staff (curators) didn't notice. 

What now? Fire the curator? Implement strict art history/visual evaluation tests for hiring curators at art museums? I don't know. This just makes me wonder about the value of a "real" painting. Is it about the artistic message/intention, or has the value been replaced by monetary value associated with a brand name? When I read this article about paintings being stolen from a Dutch museum, I quickly thought, "No big deal, just hang up replicas or fakes. People aren't concerned with the paintings, they just want the experience of seeing a so-and-so."

Another example of art branding occurred at the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale "Vatican Splendors" exhibit. TV and print ads were pushing "Michelangelo" when in fact the show was mostly composed of copies, and copies of copies. Michael Mills points out the lackluster quality perfectly, "Then there's a life-sized replica of his famous Pietà— the one that was attacked and damaged by a madman — which is identified as a 1975 cast from a 1930 copy of the 1499 original. You might as well stay home and look at it online" (Mills, 2011).

Maybe we should stay at home and look at art online. It's more affordable, you can view countless amounts of famous works for free, and sometimes it can be a really awesome experience: don't know how to feel about all this. Angry? Jaded? Concerned? Is this a problem for the art world to focus on, or is this a problem that the general public needs to worry about? Perhaps we need to "look" at how we look at art? What do you think?

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