fine art

Connoisseurship’s role in the world of art

Isaac Mostovicz writes...

Does connoisseurship matter? Can art only involve the artist’s choice and not necessarily his hand? Can you copyright an idea? These are some of the issues raised by this recent essay by Richard Feigen in the Art Newspaper. An artist launches an idea and then it can become difficult to seperate the idea from counterfeit ‘similar’ but no less beautiful ideas.

Connoisseurship is the identification of the artist by his handwriting. But if his hand isn’t there, the handwriting isn’t, and connoisseurship becomes a dead old discipline. Who needs connoisseurs? Why train them? Why not train museum director-administrators-fundraisers-construction supervisors? Who needs museum directors who actually love objects? Why not fund academic chairs in the new language—“artspeak”—to explain it all? But alas, we’re stuck with the single word “art” to define it all.

I don’t think a proliferation of fakes or art being an idea makes connoisseurship any less valuable. Appreciating the real and identifying the fake, however sublime it is, is very important in today’s art market.

Christopher Hanlon says of this article...

There’s plenty for everyone. No need to hog. It’s a continuum. Just enjoy.

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A high price for connoisseurship?

Isaac Mostovicz writes...

painting

Is it connoisseurship when people overpay? Shouldn’t they know better? Or are they just putting their appreciation of the object they’re buying above all else?

I pose these questions after Sotheby’s and Christie’s held fine art auctions this week. Souren Melikian posits in yesterday’s IHT that the link between the price paid for items and the artistic achievement displayed was tenuous at best. Sure, these were one of a kind pieces from some of the masters—but if nothing else bidders were inconsistent. At Sotheby’s, a Cezanne watercolor went for an “unthinkable” $25.5 million, but was quickly followed by sketches that went for a “modest” $2.28 million and an “absurdly low” 1.27 million.

Melikian acknowledges that it is difficult to tell what the price of a very rare work of art should be, but two paintings that were certainly worthy, a “breathtaking masterpiece” by Maurice de Vlaminck and a “beautiful” painting by early Impressionist Eva Gonzales, found zero bids.

Of course the bidders were paying what they thought was a fair price for the art—but if the art lacked the quality and aesthetics expected for how much was paid (at least in the opinion of the IHT reporter)—can we consider the buyers to be connoisseurs? Maybe. Beauty remains in the eye of the beholder / holder of wealth.

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