Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Gods & Masters: If Greatness Existed...Again

"Something happened in 2007, something ended. Old gods stumbled and fell. New ones sprang up. But they sprang up in their thousands. That’s the point these days.

Technology, hype and the sheer profligacy of the arts when confronted with a large, hungry and wealthy audience have created a climate of excess — just too many artists, too much money, too many works and too much noise. Who knows who, now, is great? Even if greatness existed, how would we find it? Do we want greatness, or would we simply prefer choice?

The further, more troubling question is, what is greatness? The climate of excess is also a climate of uncertainty and tribal dispute. When Ingmar Bergman died, many said he was just a solemn old bore — a startling, almost unbelievable dismissal of one of cinema’s greatest artists. As with leaders of the Lib Dems, in the arts, when you’re out, you’re out. And artists are being pushed in and out all the time by a cultural hype industry that has increasingly infected the ranks of what should be the independent-minded. The carefully cultivated “buzz” about some artists can be so effective that I — like, I am sure, you — actually find myself questioning my own intuitions or, in extreme cases, sanity. And the “buzz” feeds on change, novelty. The very idea of an old master, an artist who endures and grows, is rapidly becoming incomprehensible."

-Bryan Appleyard (EXCERPT:"Twilight of the Greats", The Times UK, 12.30.07, Image: Pablo Picasso)

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