Wednesday, March 17, 2021

"A brilliant quip can lose its sharpness or even its intelligibility taken out of context, but that doesn’t take away from the intelligence of the gesture, only our ability to recognize it." 

I'd had an introduction to that quote, but it was too much. It's a hilarious "meme"–photoshopped collage– the kind of thing someone would turn into an NFT. But the whole point is that it's infinitely reproducible. The age of mechanical reproduction began with Gutenberg. The cultural significance of the form –demotic commentary– has no relation to money.  

Albrecht Dürer, St. Philip 1526 Engraving, 12.2 x 7.7 mm.

The one I own, printed before final revisions, is worth a lot more than I paid for it. The dealer made a mistake. But I'll never sell it. 

While it is true that commercial art is always in danger of ending up as a prostitute, it is equally true that noncommercial art is always in danger of ending up as an old maid. Non commercial art has given us Seurat's "Grande Jatte" and Shakespeare's sonnets, but also much that is esoteric to the point of incommunicability. Conversely, commercial art has given us much that is vulgar or snobbish (two aspects of the same thing) to the point of loathsomeness, but also Durer's prints and Shakespeare's plays. For, we must not forget that Durer's prints were partly made on commission and partly intended to be sold in the open market; and that Shakespeare's plays -in contrast to the earlier masques and intermezzi which were produced at court by aristocratic amateurs and could afford to be so incomprehensible that even those who described them in printed monographs occasionally failed to grasp their intended significance—were meant to appeal, and did appeal, not only to the select few but also to everyone who was prepared to pay a shilling for admission. 
It is this requirement of communicability that makes commercial art more vital than noncommercial, and therefore potentially much more effective for better or for worse.

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