Henri Matisse, Le Bateau, color lithograph, 1958. Upside Down Version

Vincent van Gogh Grass and Butterflies (detail), oil on canvas, 1889. Upside Down Version
Georgia O'Keeffe The Lawrence Tree, oil on canvas, 1929. Wrong Angle Version.
Part II: Nothing Is New And No One Looks At It
By Steven Goss

As I claimed last time, being an artist is a simple job. If you can afford to buy materials or at least spend time digging through the garbage looking for them, then you're 90 percent there. The remaining 10 percent is spent on developing fresh ideas. However, as I explained last time, there are no new ideas in art. Henceforth, art is kaput and not worth the effort. But artists do not like to hear this sort of talk. One would think they would be relieved. It would allow them to go out and get that lucrative bartending job they dream about. But they don't. Instead they multiply and take up precious real estate in Manhattan.

So why do they do it? We could speculate that maybe art doesn't need new ideas. Like pancakes, there is no need for art to be continually changed and revamped. Pancakes were done the moment they were invented. Sure we may add things to them, but the essential concept is complete. Maybe the question should be "Why do people continue to make pancakes?" The answer to that question is simple. With their fluffy texture and their great taste, pancakes are loved by everyone. Consequently, if we assume that art is like a pancake, then maybe artists make art because, like pancakes, people don't care if the art is new, they just want more. It is true that even if you have a spectacular idea you still need an audience. Artists without audiences aren't artists, they're hobbyists.

But how true is the statement that people want art. The majority of people who look at art spend less then a minute actually looking at the artwork. The average person takes longer to eat a pancake than to look at art. The bottom line is that unless your art looks and tastes like a pancake people will take very little time to examine it. Therefore we can add to the original statement there are no new art ideas. Not only are there no new ideas in art, but no one cares anyway, except the artist, and even that's under question.

Don't believe me? Still thinking that with a truly innovative and masterly piece people will want to look at your work? You'll even argue that not only will they look but they'll also understand what you're trying to say. Think again art boy. Even the best artists with passionate avant-garde ideas can do little to hold the attention of the average or educated viewer. See for yourself.


  • The experts of a juried exhibition at the U.S. National Academy of Design awarded Edward Dickinson second place, only to discover that his work had been hung upside down.
  • In 1936, Phantasy by Spencer Nichols hung upside down for 18 days at an exhibit in New Jersey. To cover the blunder, the New Jersey Museum Association responded that since the work was an abstraction it didn't matter which way it hung. They stated that they could only tell the work was upside down because his signature was "in the wrong corner." However, as Nichols pointed out, the work was not an abstraction but a seascape, which may have become abstract when it was turned upside down.
  • The work, Le Bateau by Matisse, hung upside down for 47 days in the Museum of Modern Art exhibition The Last Works of Henri Matisse. It was uprighted after Genevieve Habert, a Wall Street stockbroker, noticed the mistake. At first she notified a museum guard, who responded, "You don't know what's up and you don't know what's down and neither do we." After trying to get someone to listen, Habert gave up and called the New York Times about the mistake. The next day, after the director of exhibitions, Monroe Wheeler, was notified, the work was rehung properly. In response to questioning, the Times reported that Wheeler could only remember three other times when a similar event had occurred.
  • In 1963 art gallery officials in Manchester, England hung a work by Rauschenberg upside down. The error wasn't discovered until an artist visiting the gallery detected the mistake. It was then corrected only after officials looked at a catalogue of the show and noticed that alignment of the work in the catalogue was different from the way they had hung it.
  • In 1965, the painting Grass and Butterflies by van Gogh was hung upside down by the National Gallery in London.
  • From 1979 to 1989 the Wadsworth Anthneum in Hartford, Connecticut hung The Lawrence Tree by O'Keeffe upside down. In 1990 the piece joined a traveling O'Keeffe retrospective organized by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Exhibition officials researching the work discovered letters from O'Keeffe complaining that the work had been hung the wrong way in an exhibition in 1931. The manner she described matched the same manner that the Wadsworth used to hang the painting. After the exhibition completed, Wadsworth hung the painting the way O'Keeffe had intended.

And it doesn't stop there. These are just the highlights of a larger epidemic, which makes one wonder, "Who exactly does care about art?" If these so-called purveyors of art don't look at it then why make it, let alone try to think of a new idea for it? Sorry, I forgot. There are no new ideas in art. Maybe that's why no one looks at art, because there is nothing new to look at. I mean how many paintings of nothing can one look at to begin with? I think I'd rather have a pancake.

Hey! This says Part II. Where's Part I?
Click here for Part I.



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