Back in October I was at SFMOMA and saw Duchamp’s Fountain. I had seen it before, but was especially struck by the card that went along with the piece. It read: “Fountain was what Duchamp called a readymade, an object elevated to the status of art not because he had created it, but because he had chosen it.”
It’s exactly the kind of thing people look at and say, “I could have painted that” and then break into a speech about how it’s not really art? That bugs me. More and more lately I’ve been of the belief that art is in large part the very act of declaring it so.
Hear me out: Duchamp’s Fountain is admittedly an everyday object that he raised to elite status. But part of what makes it deserving of being housed in an exhibit like the one at SFMOMA is that Duchamp had the balls to call it art. He navigated the system and got it into a museum, there’s certainly beauty in that kind of hustle.
Now think about some of the great modernist painters? They brought new styles and ideas to the forefront. They challenged conventional wisdom. In many ways they are the embodiment of the entrepreneurial spirit. What we now take for granted as ‘art’ was once anything but.
I’ve been watching a documentary series of Christo and Jeanne-Claude for whatever you might say about their work, the fact that they make it happen is really quite magical. How many people would even know where to start the process of placing hundreds of gates in Central Park?
In one of the videos Christo alludes to this fact, explaining to a community board who was voting on whether to allow him to run a fence through a California town that they were all a part of his giant art project whether they agreed with it or not.
I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with all this, but I think the bottom line for me is that the act of creation deserves more credit than it gets. Lots of people have ideas and lots of others are supremely talented, but most people don’t bring them together and make something real. If I could get a picture of my big toe somehow placed in the Met then whose to say it’s not art?
What’s more, it’s further proof that anything is possible. Art and everything else are up for interpretation. I think I’ve written it before, but at some point the wheel didn’t exist and someone discovered it. Maybe 100 people realized it before, but it was that one caveman who realized it’s power that got all the credit.
That’s why we’ve got to make things happen.