Welcome To “Who Killed Art?” a Blog by Morris Shapiro

The age of the “Gatekeeper” is over.

We now live in a time when anyone, anywhere can produce anything and hurl it into the universe of the internet… an anarchist’s dream.

Funny though, how in this new paradigm, everything at first seems to have the same “weight,” no matter how vapid, rabid or misinformed it may be. Ravings and inventions of dilettante lunacy can be positioned right next to the writings of a distinguished historian, and be delivered up in the same gastronomic scoop of Google’s detached information hash.

But also, because of this unprecedented level field, those who used to control the information and determine the “darlings” of the culture are now engaged in a losing struggle to hold on to their power. Now anything can “bubble-up” to the top of the stew and fill our craving (If enough of us deem it delicious). Consider the teenager who becomes an overnight singing “Star” from a YouTube video, or the socialite, absent of any talents, whose every move and whim becomes the obsession of bored Americans everywhere.

Morris Shapiro, Marcel Duchamp, Pompidou Museum, ParisMe with Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain” at the Pompidou Museum in Paris.

And what about art? 

The result of all of this, in my view, now heralds the end of the “Age of Conceptualism.” For nearly one hundred years now the “religion” of the conceptual deity, Marcel Duchamp has reigned throughout the lands. The anti-aesthetic “Crusaders” swooped down upon the world’s artistic topography and vanquished all that was once transcendent, illuminating, ecstatic or healing.  Their disdain for beauty, order, sacrifice and the discipline necessary to achieve technical mastery, was manifest in their adulation for “The Emperor’s New Art.”  And the result was the creation of an elitist world: the gallery and the contemporary museum in conjunction with the international auction houses, winking at each other as the river of conceptual flotsam and jetsam flowed by and filled their pails.

The rest of the world (not “enlightened” enough to be invited into the club) at first was outraged back in 1917.  “How can this be art?” they shouted, “Just because someone says it is?” Decades later they became bewildered by the prices being fetched for things that were incomprehensible both artistically and functionally. This was followed by the inevitable apathy and eventual disdain which brings us to where we are today.  Dead art…  a slow and long, agonizing demise of any relationship between the culture and the rarefied expressions of the culture. We are all widows and widowers of what was once our culture’s spearhead.

My writings herein are about a resurrection.

If there is to be only one truism in the rich history of art, it must be that it is a “pendulum,”  swinging back-and-forth between one extreme and another. I’m excited now because there is a world full of gifted and dedicated artists who are pulling hard on it. There are others who are gone too, but their works have kept the flame alive (with very little oxygen, I might add).  Both living and deceased, these artists write the continuing narrative of the quest for the sublime and seek answers to the same age-old questions that were pressed onto the walls of the caves of Altamira, asked in Picasso’s “Guernica,” and seen in the liquid eyes of Albrecht Durer’s self-portrait.

I invite you to let me know what you think about my articles and the thoughts that follow.

7 Responses to “Welcome To “Who Killed Art?” a Blog by Morris Shapiro”

  1. As an art student (The Art Institute of Chicago) I came to the school with youthful enthusiasm.
    The year… 1980, the school and teachers had proclaimed that “easel art was dead”. At first, dismayed… a group of my peers and I disagreed and “showed them”…
    The same year I had my first piece in an exhibition at the museum… 1980.

    Have heart, art… Real art, will never die.
    Leslie Lew

  2. Leslie:
    As an “Aesthetic Olympian” yourself, your comments are much appreciated. It was a delight to write about you and your work. Please never stop filling the world with your creations. We are all the better for it.

  3. Morry
    I would have responded sooner to your article but I have been locked away in my ivory tower. Bravo! Nice to see someone is waving the banner for art that is passionate emotional and human. I believe that the arts have to go through constant transformation and we get the art that relates to our times; art cannot stay in the past it must move or become moribund. At the moment we live in an age where too many commentators and philosophers are involved in theorizing about what art is, making the whole thing dry, dense and over-intellectualised. Sometimes reading modern art philosophy is like wading through treacle. I want to say stop talking and paint or make something! Think with your instincts not just your head. Painting is too enjoyable on many levels to die out. We must re-assert sensuality and the pleasure principle!

    • Peter: You are a perfect manifestation of the art of our times. Danto describes the arc of art history as being defined in three stages of predominance:
      1: The age of aesthetic beauty
      2: The age of formal consideration
      3: The age of engagement…I prefer “confrontation”
      The question is now, “What stage will follow?” To my mind it is already happening with artists like you and others, who are striving to once again re-engage the narrative. Don’t give up the fight!

  4. Dominic Pangborn Says:

    Age of Gatekeeper is over?

    In the current world of internet, it does give more people the opportunity to showcase their art. I don’t think it has done anything to rid of “gatekeeper”. There will always be the gatekeeper.
    Artist can showcase via internet, it still takes the Gatekeeper to authorize one to be included into the institution. We can create our own virtual museum and showcase our work at freewill without the gatekeeper, but then we become the gatekeeper.

    “What about art ?”

    Thats something I struggled personally but finally realized what it was all about. Whether it be realism, abstract, expressionism or any other new form of art, it comes down to “be yourself”. Be the truist to yourself.

    For me, art is about connection, dance of seduction and love.
    There is a huge difference between a painter and an artist. Everyone can paint but few become an artist. Art, like a good design is all about connection, shariing and being part of someone’s life. When a viewer decides to look at my art, they consciously chose to devote part of their life to understand my work. Sharing our minds to understand and connecting unconsciously.
    I love to create because of this “connection” element.
    I also realzed that art and life as to some extent is a dance of seduction and love. Artist needs to produce something that someone will fall in love with or find exciting and will want to engage and spend time with. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time and energy and is a painful process of reaching out but not being seen. Making art is actually loving the audience, and not the medium, the style or our own aspirations, and in the process of painting we forget the people. It’s easy to get lost in the process.
    It’s all about people, the audience, and a genuine love and courage to be part of their life, and responsibility that comes with it.

    VanGogh migh not have personally connected to his audience but his art connected, danced with seduction and everyone fell in love.

  5. Dominic:
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your art with the world. What strikes me about you as a person and an artist is your seemingly inexhaustible energy and creativity. It’s clear from the above that you have deep and meaningful insights into the creative process as well. The dialog in which we are all engaged is crucial. It defines us and our time. Thanks for be an integral part of it. Morry

  6. Hey Morrie –
    I’ve been curious about this since you told the story at our last cruise.
    I saw the Fountain today at the SF MOMA. I still don’t get what constitutes modern art. To me, the bar should be set quite a bit higher than what was in the MOMA.

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