“All art is useless”

The other day, I had a twitter debate with @dellybean about the nature of “good art”. Of course, @dellybean was wrong (Michael Craig-Martin’s “An Oak Tree” is brilliant), but art would be dull if we all agreed.

As is wise in such matters, I think it is best to defer to the man I would most like to have gone drinking with, Oscar Wilde (from the preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray):

The artist is the creator of beautiful things.
To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim.
The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things.
The highest as the lowest form of criticism is a mode of autobiography.
Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.
Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope.
They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only beauty.
. . .
All art is at once surface and symbol.
Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.
Those who read the symbol do so at their peril.
It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.
Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital.
When critics disagree, the artist is in accord with himself.
We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.
All art is quite useless.

Author: Josh Witten


One thought on ““All art is useless””

  1. It is hard to disagree with Mr Oscar Wilde, the single most influential pillar of literature. However, his wit with was both dry and incisive. I agree with the statement that the artist is a creator of all that is wonderful but i do not pain the critics in the same light. The problem is that anyone can be a critic. However, not everyone can be an artist. The critic is someone who takes art on to another level by predicting and changing things. He is who can something positive which can then be taken on by the artist himself. A critic can contribute a lot to the world of art if the critic is well versed but sadly most of them are not. This is where i beg to differ with Mr Wilde. May God forgive me for this insolence.

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