Has Modern Art Gone Too Far?

I am no philistine, or at least I hope not, and in general I enjoy art in all its forms. Theatre, literature, music – all of these can baffle us with pretentiousness or make tenuous points that may seem a little far fetched. But by and large this is tolerable, because for art lovers it is simply part of the territory and we can see the beauty of it enough to simply move past it. However, contemporary art seems to take this tolerance to a whole new level.

Admittedly, I am a humble 15-year-old girl, with no in depth background knowledge into how any art works, attempting to understand something far larger than myself. But this is part of my problem. Art, almost by definition, is supposed to evoke feeling, discussion, to educate. Anyone should be able to come to an artwork and while perhaps not understand the whole message, be able to see the feeling behind it, and be intrigued by the mystery of the aspects you can not quite fully grasp. Yes, yes; artists argue they don’t make art to be ‘gawped at by the indifferent masses’ or some such artistic waffle (a controversial generalisation, I know, but bear with me) and these kinds of artists have always existed, indeed creating some great works. But I fear there is an ’emperor’s new clothes’ epidemic growing; a percentage of artists taking it too far.

I have always joked that I would one day take a blank canvas to a popular art museum and have them pay me millions of pounds for my genius. I am probably not the first to make such a witty observation of modern art, however on a recent visit to the Tate Modern I was confronted with just that – three blank canvases. I didn’t even read the little card explaining it because unless it said ‘this is taking the Mickey out of modern art,’ it was absurd, and frankly I doubt very much that’s what it said. This is just the most extreme example of a series of questionable ‘artworks’ that are scattered between very clever and very beautiful pieces that are a great testament to the way art has developed over the decades. Considering I am fairly open minded and enjoy even some of the more curious pieces, I like to think it would take a lot for me to say ‘okay, that really is ridiculous’ and I am beginning to wonder how we draw our lines.

When does it stop being art? Who decides? If just anyone filled a large room with car bumpers suspended by human hair would it still be genius, or does it depend on the artist? A bunch of paper mache hands sticking out of an elephant? A tube overflowing with fairy liquid bubbles? (Two of those are actual exhibits in the Tate Modern and one I made up, I wonder if you can guess which one?) Sometimes you think ‘I am either very stupid and missing a very intelligent point or this really is nuts and everyone’s pretending to understand’. I don’t know; perhaps it doesn’t matter and that’s the point, but I worry that if no one calls it out when it goes too far artists will just descend into mindlessly throwing biscuits at a wall and screaming ‘CAPITALISM’ and that will be the absolute pinnacle of artistic clarity. Or an exhibition will simply be an entirely empty room and its creator will be branded ‘a modern Turner’ and win the Nobel prize for art. I want desperately for art to be clever and thought-provoking, a refuge from some of the mindless pain we see in day to day life, and to change things in the process, but if that happened we would lose all hope of this happening. Who knows, but if that happens I’ve got some great ideas for pieces involving sticking gloves on walls, if any rich old men would like to commission me.