Art Happens

Greetings from Paris, where Johann and I recently spent a long weekend taking in the sights and visiting friends. Paris is just so much fun to wander aimlessly through that we intentionally made few plans, allowing ourselves plenty of time to go wherever the mood took us. We did have a short list of must-see destinations, which will follow shortly, as soon as I get the photos uploaded. In the meantime, though, a bit about the unphotographed part of the journey:

Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris
A bit sparsely attended since the opening of the Pompidou Centre, this Modern Art museum is inside the Palais de Tokyo (where we had a gorgeous lunch afterward). I was full of fresh enthusiasm for Modern art after our recent visit to the Tate, and the enchanting works of Pierre Bonnard, Raoul Dufy and the other Fauvists were well worth the visit. I admit to being mystified, though, by certain other selections. I didn’t take any pictures (it’s not allowed) and don’t even remember the artist’s name, but I can re-create his work for you here. That’s it below. Just two pieces of paper, one with a circle drawn on it in pencil, the other with a diagonal line.

Now I don’t mean to sound like one of those people who argues that it’s not art, that anyone’s five-year-old could produce a circle or a line just like it. Not at all. I get that it is abstract, representational, expressionist. But here’s my complaint: It’s the context of the piece that makes it relevant. The reason that guy’s circle is hanging in a museum and mine has just been thrown in the trash is because his has some deep meaning to convey. His circle has a purpose, a message; it’s the intent of the artist that makes his circle “art” and mine just a doodle. But when I walked over to the plaque on the wall, looking for enlightenment, it said: “Untitled. Pencil on paper.”

What? Untitled? Really? Now I’m no art expert, so I would have accepted any number of explanations for the meaning of this circle. Earth, Moon, Hope, Eternity, Verisimilitude, Napkin Ring, The Late John Candy, Inverted Hostess Snack Cake, whatever. But drawing a circle on a piece of paper and then not even bothering to give it a name when someone offers to hang it in a museum in Paris? That’s just lazy.

(Have an art museum? Interested in Laziness and Laziness II? They are a poignant two-part commentary on the eternal conflict between the desire and capacity of the average person to comprehend the contextualism inherent in Modern Art. E-mail me and I will let you know where to send the check.)

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