The Vice columnist “Glen Coco” just penned a piece “Ok, Do It: Teach Me How to ‘Get’ Art,” in which the self-professed art-know-nothing enlists the help of one Alex, a student at the Courtauld Institute of Art to help him “get” art. This follow-up to two earlier pieces, “I Don’t “Get” Art,” and “I Still Don’t Get Art,” makes a blatantly insincere effort, à la Morley Safer in his recent 60 Minutes segment, to understand art.
Mr. Coco’s is a crusty argument. We’ve heard it all from Mr. Safer before. But applied by someone who takes their pen name from a minor character in the movie Mean Girls, he’s evidence that the anti-art guard is getting younger and hipper.
Mr. Coco documented Alex’s “critical thought-storms” as he makes his way around a series of galleries on a night in East London, and then responded to them in kind.
Under an image of a painting by artist Ben Young, a kind of scribbly, graffiti-ish work that looks like a cross between a Cy Twombly and a Basquiat, the dialogue goes like this:
Alex says: “The childlike element of scrawling is a spontaneous reaction to what you find around you. Often the problem with people’s expectations of art is that they’re expecting something ingenious—the journalistic value of art isn’t enough. They want surplus value, they want sweat off the brow, a unique, new and seductive aesthetic. But I quite like this canvas. I think there’s palpably a lot of labor in it. I like the color. It has a nice aesthetic correlation, and in that sense, it’s considered. I think historically, it’s particularly novel.”
Glen says: “Not 100 percent sure what you’re saying here, Alex. Maybe I’m just uncultured, but I don’t think something can be both “spontaneous” and “considered.” All I’m seeing is a pile of scribble that is worth thousands of pounds, that people are going to come and stare at, in a gallery in East London that probably also costs thousands of pounds to rent per month. I can see that it might aesthetically please some people, but could they not look at a photo of it? Or give a baby some crayons and create their own pile of scribble? It all seems very wasteful.”