What is the difference between good art and bad art?
Travel with me to Art Basel and beyond to see what makes a great piece of art.
For over a decade, I have had the opportunity to see many museums, art shows, galleries, street art, etc. Along the way, I have cataloged extremelly effective artworks and overall successful pieces of Fine Art. More specifically, in the past six years, I have focused on Modern Art (art from 1860’s -1970’s) and Contemporary Art (20 and 21st century art).
While it is impossible to know the cross-cultural implications of beauty or the genetic predisposition to preference, good art begins with quality materials. Take a look at artist Ha Chong-Hyun, whos effective piece of art moved me at Art Basel, Switzerland in 2019.
Good Art = Quality Materials
Chong-Hyun’s medium is oil on hemp cloth. Looking closely at the canvas, you can see that the quality and intrigue of the material make this work special! We can assume that the materials alone took many studio hours to “invent” and then finally source yards of workable painting canvas. The oil paint is not cracked or flaking and is applied deliberately. It can be safe to assume that this piece sold somewhere between $100,000 to over a half million USD at Art Basel.
Good Art = Confident Execution
Alexander Calder is a wonderful example of an artist who exhibits confident execution in his timeless masterpieces. “The Tree” at Fondation Beyeler, Switzerland is an example of mastery in physics and unquestionable confidence exhibited by the artist’s understanding of material and certainty that balance will win in this huge steel mobile.
A successful piece of art comes from an artist who knows his/her medium and is capable of approaching a new piece with confidence. Some great art relies on the unpredictable nature of the medium and resorts largely to chance, however, a great piece of art will still hold you in the palm of its hand and invite you to trust the artist’s execution. Calder’s sculpture “Lily of Force” sold for a record $18.6 million in 2012.
Good Art = 1, 2 Punch Reaction
Visual art relies on a viewer’s response. An effective piece of art will indulge the viewer and encourage a reaction.
However, the second reaction is most important and often differinciates good art from great art. A quality first reaction from a viewer makes for an effective piece of art, a meaningful second reaction is usually when the viewer stands in awe and becomes a collector of that artist’s work.
First Reaction: “I just love what the artist is trying to say here!”
Second Reaction: *steps closer “…has that been chisled out of cheese?”
When I saw the huge yarn newspaper displayed in Miami for Art Basel, I was blown away by the size. The material, as well looks ridiculously laboriously worked (if you look close, the knits might remind you of your grandma). This work is a one-two-three punch AND has intention to change the way we think and perceive our daily lives.
Good Art = Intention
Here is a one-two punch piece of art that also has INTENTION. Intention can also be thought of as timeliness where the artist is recognizing something that is current in his/her life, current in the news, riles the press etc.
A crocheted time bomb was done by the artist Olek at the bottom of the ocean in Mexico. The intention was obvious; to draw attention to the conditions of our waters and to shed light on the urgency of changing the way we treat our planet.
The yarn bomb received a lot of bad press because it was done without asking permission. Olek used her underwater yarn bomb motif on the front page of a GIANT crocheted NY Times Newspaper. Titled “Good News.”
Good Art = HYPE
It goes without saying that a good piece of art is good because a lot of people know about it. The hype beast is real!
In the 21st Century, Banksy has been one of the most successful artists at strappin’ up the old HYPE BEAST and ridin’ into an artist’s dream sunset.
At the end of 2018, Sotheby’s London sold a Banksy original for $1.4 million. The faces of the auctioneers show an impressive second reaction as they watch Banksy’s “Girl with Balloon” turn into the shredded “Love is in the Bin” right before their eyes.