What Influence?

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Blessed is the influence of one true loving human soul on another.” George Elliot (from The Painter’s Keys)

A new book has recently been published reportedly naming the most influential art and artists of the last twenty years. The writer has singled out 100 artists to name as the top 100. If these are the most influential artists, then what does it say for us? What does it say for art? Judging from the list, it appears the art world still hangs onto the artists who can make the biggest political statement of some sort. It’s all about the statement.

Writing for Real Clear Arts in the Arts Journal blog, Judith Dobrzynski says of the book’s author, “It takes a lot of nerve, and the willingness to be wrong, incredibly wrong, to write the book that Kelly Grovier published in the U.S. this month (and in September in the U.K.).” The point is perhaps more to why he chose the art and artists he did and on what basis did he make his decisions? A number of the artists on the list are known more for their controversial statements than for their artistic skill.

Of course the list includes the much-heralded street artist, Banksy. Looking at Banksy’s many works on the walls, buildings and cars of New York City, one sees whimsical statements and cute figures. Lost in the moment are the owners of the properties that have been defaced and who must now pay to have the work removed. And what of he glorification of graffiti? Graffiti has damaged and defaced many beautiful, old and precious buildings. Is Banksy glorifying the destruction of other people’s property? Or is it okay to disrespect others in the name of art?

To many people, art is for beauty, for touching souls, for uplifting spirits. Making art that reaches into the heart and sparks a deep emotion is a wonderful thing. To stand in a room full of the all- encompassing powerful energy of beautiful works of art is a deeply moving experience. What does it say about us to be influenced more by a person who defaces the property of his fellow humans over the artist who strives to create a thing of beauty to share with others? Hopefully, Kelly Grovier is wrong in his choices.

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