Painting at Lascaux

After writing Sunday’s post I kept being nagged by this additional passage from Denis Dutton‘s New York Times op ed piece:

One trait of the ancestral personality persists in our aesthetic cravings: the pleasure we take in admiring skilled performances. From Lascaux to the Louvre to Carnegie Hall — where now and again the Homo erectus hairs stand up on the backs of our necks — human beings have a permanent, innate taste for virtuoso displays in the arts.

We ought, then, to stop kidding ourselves that painstakingly developed artistic technique is passé, a value left over from our grandparents’ culture…The appreciation of contemporary conceptual art, on the other hand, depends not on immediately recognizable skill, but on how the work is situated in today’s intellectual zeitgeist. That’s why looking through the history of conceptual art after Duchamp reminds me of paging through old New Yorker cartoons. Jokes about Cadillac tailfins and early fax machines were once amusing, and the same can be said of conceptual works…

Future generations, no longer engaged by our art “concepts” and unable to divine any special skill or emotional expression in the work, may lose interest in it as a medium for financial speculation and relegate it to the realm of historical curiosity…

But that doesn’t mean we need to worry about the future of art. There are plenty of prodigious artists at work in every medium, ready to wow us with surprising skills.

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