Last week, I was taking my daily scroll through my Twitter timeline when I came across a very anti-modern art thread. Intrigued, I clicked on the tweet to start reading the replies and was surprised to find myself in the middle of an extremely intense debate centered around the legitimacy of modern art.
I probably shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was, given that the general public is very well known for rejecting new and unconventional concepts. This is more than relevant to the art community, which is teeming with harsh and unforgiving critics, specifically ones fond of targeting modern art.
Although the boundaries of art are always being challenged, these changes are seldom welcomed with open arms. Even the occasional trip to the local art museum yields its fair share of disapproval. Modern art, which commonly refers to the contemporary art movement of the 20th century, is associated with the discarding of traditional aesthetics to opt for a more abstract style. It is revered by some but regarded with scorn by the majority.
So is this judgment of modern art well founded? Yes… and no. I’m a firm believer of this judgment when expressed through criticism. When it doesn’t reach excessive levels, criticism remains important and necessary. Seeing the response of those who consume art is so valuable, especially for the artist, who can use this criticism to improve.
What isn’t as valuable is the denouncement of modern art, which is what I observed first-hand through my Twitter timeline. In this thread, many users were regarding modern art as “degenerate” and not a real form of art because it supposedly lacks effort, meaning, and any sort of talent at all.
After reading through the thread, I have to disagree. Modern art’s roots in abstraction and experimentation may not be particularly groundbreaking, but it still deserves to be treated as real and valid.
Ironically, this debate that society is having over modern art is what primarily validates it. The more modern art is rejected from society, the more it accomplishes. Modern art is polarizing. It’s dangerous. Albeit “low effort”, it promotes expression and receives response. Modern art offers a debate and starts a discussion about its own legitimacy.
Additionally, the originality of modern art is often eclipsed by its accessibility. Because modern art doesn’t require the artist to be a master of their craft, critics regard it as subordinate, mainly because “anyone can make it”.
This argument strikes me as misguided. Art doesn’t have to and shouldn’t really be exclusive to an elite minority. What sets it apart is its inclusivity and lack of criteria. No one makes rules for what is and what isn’t considered art, which gives it a fluidity and ability to adapt over time.
In fact, we’ve observed reactions throughout history that parallel this rejection of modern art. Many major art movements, such as expressionism and impressionism, were received scornfully because of their unconvention.
The Jazz Age of the 1920s was also met by disapproval from the public. Yet over time, society has accepted these movements because society isn’t static. As time passes, we change, and so does our perception of art.
It’s a cycle that society hasn’t managed to break yet. We’re always rejecting the new and looking back fondly at the past, which is something that holds true regarding the modern art debate. Modern art’s acceptance as valid and real will come in the near future, accompanied by the rejection of whatever current art movement dominates the era.