The Mona Lisa was painted 500 years ago, but it has only recently reached the apex of its fame. This has nothing to do with the painting itself, which, thanks to the decay of time and botched restoration efforts, does not even look much like the way it did when it was painted; the colors are now much darker for instance. Up until the 20th century, and the various attacks on the painting, it was far from being the most famous painting in the world. There is absolutely nothing inherent in the painting; not subject, historical importance, technique, craftsmanship, or anything else that demands that you pay attention to the Mona Lisa. But everything external to the painting – creator, owners, history, attacks, location – has served as fuel for the fire of fame, until, emblematic of the modern age, it is most famous for being famous.
Modern Art: Marketing Over Substance
If you understand the fame of the Mona Lisa, then you will understand much of modern art as well; it is the victory of marketing over substance. This is true not just of painting but of all the arts. And not just of arts and culture, but of most of modern life, of business and politics as well. The ever accelerating complexity of the world, and endless plethora of new products, artists and, well, everything, makes it so difficult to judge things independently, and so much easier to rely on renown as a criteria of what you should pay attention to; the psychology of imitations is a well documented social phenomenon, which grows only stronger as the world becomes more complex and bewildering.
The Attitude Media Difference
But here at Attitude Media, we’re going to change all that, actually looking at art, and judging it, on its own merits. The first, and most important, step is to learn to look at art without prejudice. Just because you see it at an art fair, at an affordable price, has nothing to do with the art being good, or bad. A famous piece may, like the Mona Lisa, be vastly overrated due to the accidents of history and fame. Or famous art may, like the Sistine Chapel, have every right to vast acclaim.