Taste, Value and Judgement

Taste as an aesthetic, sociological, economic and anthropological concept refers to a cultural patterns of choice and preference. It is about drawing distinctions between things such as styles, manners, consumer goods and works of art. Social inquiry of taste is about the human ability to judge what is beautiful, good and proper. [16]

This taste can be related to social divisions. Specifically linked with high and low art, this is the division of tastes. High art is appreciated by people with the most cultivated taste, whereas low art is for the masses, accessible and easy to understand. This is a variation between groups of different socio-economic status in preferences for cultural practice and goods.

Brian Eno once said: “The difference between high art and low art is that low art is unafraid to appeal to the senses, and high art is suspicious of the delicious, as if one were being seduced for impure reasons.”

The means of low art suggest that the piece can be reproduced to large extents, but Walter Benjamin suggested that reproduction of art affects the aura of the piece in a negative way, diminishing the unique aspect of it.

“Even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking in one element: its
presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to
be. This unique existence of the work of art determined the history to which it was
subject throughout the time of its existence. This includes the changes which it
may have suffered in physical condition over the years as well as the various changes in its ownership. The traces of the first can be revealed only by chemical
or physical analyses which it is impossible to perform on a reproduction; changes
of ownership are subject to a tradition which must be traced from the situation of
the original.” Walter Benjamin

It is suggested that people of higher class appreciate high art more, due to the fact that they are able to afford to buy and view classic and expensive pieces of art, so they have the availability to learn about and appreciate the art.

Brian Sewell is described as Britain’s most famous and controversial art critic. Sewell has never held back his opinion and has frequently insulted the general public for their views on art. One of the specific comments he made was regarding the public’s positive view on Banky’s work in Bristol:

“The public doesn’t know good from bad. For this city to be guided by the opinion of people who don’t know anything about art is lunacy. It doesn’t matter if they [the public] like it.” [18]

Sewell does demonstrate his view on high and low art, but I feel it is wrong to be so exclusive. I personally like to keep an open mind, and I feel art can be pretty much be anything as long it has meaning and concept. I especially believe that the public’s view of art should be recognized as a worthy viewpoint, not necessarily for all pieces of art, but it should not be dismissed, as without the public, the art/artist may not be appreciated as much, and they may not earn as much money as they could if the public didn’t express their view and buy the artists work. But, this mass production can be seen as the definition of lower art.

The Rhine II 1999 by Andreas Gursky born 1955
The Rhine II 1999 Andreas Gursky [19]- sold for $4.3 million (£2.7 million) at Christie’s Newyork, setting an auction record for a photograph (November 2011)

[16] http://therapidian.org/high-and-low-art

Quote: The work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction: The Aura of the Original. Walter Benjamin
[18] http://www.croydonadvertiser.co.uk/Acerbic-art-critic-Brian-Sewell-says-culture/story-20094531-detail/story.html
[19] The Rhine II 1999 Andreas Gursky http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/gursky-the-rhine-ii-p78372 

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