Friday, 20 April 2007

art without a frame

Here is another dated post, a Washington Post piece by Gene Weingarten. It is significant not so much for the 'experiment' but for Weingarten's thoughtful analysis.

The setup: what happens when one of the world's greatest musicians plays one of the world's greatest instruments at one of the worlds greatest, uh, metro stops?

Mark Leithauser, senior curator at the National Gallery, puts the project in perspective:
"Let's say I took one of our more abstract masterpieces, say an Ellsworth Kelly, and removed it from its frame, marched it down the 52 steps that people walk up to get to the National Gallery, past the giant columns, and brought it into a restaurant. It's a $5 million painting. And it's one of those restaurants where there are pieces of original art for sale, by some industrious kids from the Corcoran School, and I hang that Kelly on the wall with a price tag of $150. No one is going to notice it. An art curator might look up and say: 'Hey, that looks a little like an Ellsworth Kelly. Please pass the salt.'"
Context matters. Most reports would stop here. Not Weingarten. He brings in Kant.

Paul Guyer of the University of Pennsylvania, one of America's most prominent Kantian scholars, says... if Kant had been at the Metro watching as Joshua Bell play to a thousand unimpressed passersby, "He would have inferred about them... absolutely nothing."

Even this is not the end of the story--to say that art needs a frame and a person on the street can't be blamed for missing it isn't enough. The most interesting parts of the story are the interviews with the individuals who did notice the art. Check out the article--there are accompanying videos.

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