Beauty in the Eye of the Feds

Notes on Creativity theme of the week:
Art and Culture

How much would you pay for the painting depicted on the left- a 5.4m by 2.4m red stripe flanked by two blue ones?

How about $1.76 million? That’s how much Canadian taxpayers paid for it in 1989, when the National Gallery of Canada bought it on their behalf.

Voice of Fire by Burnett Newman outraged the public, and a good old fashioned controversy- not common for non-confrontational Canadians- broke out. It was the self-proclaimed art world sophisticates against the common man.

Those on the side of the museum’s curator claimed it to be a masterpiece of minimalist, abstract art. Everyday Joe called it two colours and a paint roller. He could not imagine his hard-earned money being wasted like this.

Some important questions emerged: Who defines ‘good art’? What pieces embody our cultural value of art? Should governments use taxpayer money to buy art that represents the public, or art that is deemed significant by the art world?

In the end, the controversy faded, and Voice still hangs in the National Gallery. Funny enough, it turned out to be a good financial investment. The painting is currently valued at $1o million. Maybe there’s hope for my stick figure drawings yet…


Today’s 4 Minute Writer  


It must be so.
This is the way it is.
Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.

I insist on being polite and opening doors for you.

I insist on driving three hours to visit you, though it’s dark and the rain is coming down hard.

I insist on continuing up the mountain, though I’m scared, and cold, and hungry.

I insist on carrying on, on moving forward, on plowing through.

Though the way is full of danger, I insist.

I’m not afraid.
I’m not alone.
I’m not quitting.
I’m pressing on.  

Use the comment field to suggest a topic or to comment.


Filed under Creativity, Writing

8 responses to “Beauty in the Eye of the Feds

  1. I must admit that the simple painting is strikingly attractive. Other than to say that, I have no opinion. Blessings to you…

  2. Great question! I guess for me good art is art that invokes an emotion of some kind, but of course it is such an individual thing that I have no idea “who” should define it. My favorite piece of art hangs over my kitchen table. It is over a meter long and is of 3 monkeys, 1 is a mother with a baby on her back and she does not look happy. When I first saw it I couldn’t stop staring at it so I had to buy it. Is it good? In my opinion yes, it’s very well done (by a Costa Rican artist) and it is always the topic of conversation at gatherings so on this basis alone I would say it is “good” art.

  3. I know there is a lot I don’t know…there’s an iron cast of child’s shoe stuck to the boardwalk at the seaside town I go to, by artist Tracey Emin. Such simplicity, but a comment, for her, on teenage pregnancy, no words needed. The artist’s perspective used to be part and parcel of a painting for people like Turner or Renoir, but these days Emin and her like choose to take us on a journey. Perhaps our questions are as important as her answers.

    • There is a lot I don’t know as well- but it seems to me that the art these days which leaves much more up to the interpretation of the viewer than the message of the artist is a reflection of our society at large. In previous days, we were guided by commonly held values/principles/normsthat we held as self-evident. The didactic tradition was alive and well. These days, it’s every man for himself to determine his own personal way to ‘do life’ and interpret what he sees. Which is better? Both have their merits and perils. I think society’s pendulum swings this way and that, trying to find the sweet spot.

  4. V

    I don’t think there is “good” or “bad” art. It just is art. I do agree though that paying umpteen billions of dollars is a bit questionable, or moreso why an artist would charge that much money for their work? Is it a form of egotism?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s