Why does independent thought matter? Because you are constantly exposed to a deluge of information, mostly trivial but sometimes profound. You need to decide how to spend your limited time and energy. Do you want to spend hours waiting in line to see a famous picture like the Mona Lisa, or do you want to spend that time scouring your local art fair for work by an unknown artist that may have special meaning to you – and that you can actually afford to buy? One message is that much of what is famous is not worth your attention. But perhaps the more important message is that the world is filled with art, and with many other things, that is being overlooked, and from which we all have much to learn.
In some areas of life, we should be value investors, recognizing value before others do. But in many cases you’ll have to be comfortable with the idea that you may see value where others never see it, or at least not during your lifetime. So, do you buy art because the woman at the gallery in Chelsea told you it was “hot”, by an up and coming artist? Or do you buy an original painting because you want to enjoy it in your home? Art is, in general, a lousy and risky investment, and those who do well financially are more lucky than smart. From an investment point of view, you might as well be buying lottery tickets. You should buy art because you value it for your own enjoyment, not as a method of exchange.
Mariko Art is named for a character in a great novel; it was a best-selling novel, but still not nearly as famous as it deserves to be. Mariko is a Japanese woman who represents beauty, intelligence, elegance, honor, and an ability to uniquely live within two very different worlds and value systems. If you spend some time on this section of Attitude Media you’ll learn both about famous art that you should probably ignore and, much more importantly, not so famous art that is worth your attention.
Conclusion: What Makes A Work Of Art Great?
So, to answer the question we first posed, What Makes a Work of Art Great? It’s not the fame of the creator, or the owners, or the museum in which it is placed. It’s not the story behind the art, and it’s certainly not the price someone is willing to pay at auction. What matters is the art itself, and your relationship to it. At its core, great art, like life itself, is a private experience that cannot be quantified; not through attendance numbers, auction prices, or anything else. If, through beauty, or craftsmanship, or subject matter, the art seems to make your life a bit more interesting, a bit more hopeful, a bit more worth living, than it’s great art.*
*PS. If you experience that emotion when looking at the Mona Lisa, then it is great art, at least for you.