What is art? How many times have I heard that question asked? And how many times answered? If anyone ever thinks they have found the definitive response, they would probably make a fortune.
You may think it doesn’t matter, and for the most part it may not. Certainly, some things clearly are art and some things are not. The difficulty is establishing the boundary between the two; a bit like the exact moment you go from being awake to being asleep.
What made me get all philosophical about this was the news that what is arguably now Banksy’s most famous artwork, Love is in the bin – previously Girl with Balloon – was back on the market and expected to make up to $8 million at auction.
It became his most celebrated – or notorious – artwork after it was shredded live during its last sale three years ago. Was it an automated reaction to the hammer falling at just over a million pounds or a remotely controlled process (by someone acting for the artists in the room?)?
Apparently, it was Banksy’s social comment on the art market, which he holds in contempt as he continues to rake in millions from it.
Whether it was a genuine attempt to destroy market value in an expensive painting or not, the controversial incident only added to the work’s allure and price tag. But why? Is it a better picture for being shredded or not? Is its true value found in Banksy’s destructive treatment of it or in his original concept? Should it be seen now as a picture or a piece of performance art?
I’ll leave you to ponder on all that. But what it tells me is that art does not have to be beautiful to be successful.