What Makes Your Van Gogh?

I know art when I see it.

Recently, pranksters planted a $10 Ikea print in a Netherlands Museum and told visitors it was made by a Swedish artist named Ike Andrews. Note the first four letters of Mr. Andrews’ name.

Patrons were asked what they thought it was worth. Estimates ranged from 1,000 Euros to 2.5 million Euros.

I’ve heard of Euros, but I never bothered to learn how much one is worth since it would have to equate to American dollars to have any relevance to me. However, 2.5 million anything is a lot, so these folks were obviously fooled big time.

That’s what I love about the art world. It’s kind of like the Academy Awards. People create their own little club, give each other accolades, and spend more money on each other’s work than the GNP of Bolivia.

Music is also art, and I’ve seen a similar experiment done where someone took a first-chair violinist from a world-renowned orchestra, dressed them in street clothes, and put them in a subway with a cup for donations at their feet. Everyone except one small child ignored him. The kid’s mom drug him off before he could hear much.

In college, I had to study art as part of my academic requirements to get a degree. Like algebra, I never understood the relevance of a linear equation or a Claude Lorrain when it came to being able to make a living. What I gleaned from studying art was that there is no baseline for taste. It’s all completely subjective.

One of Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings sold for $49 million. This was a guy who was hooked on absinthe, a highly addictive alcohol that has hallucinogenic properties, and he painted with lead paint. Yet, people look at his work and marvel.

Personally, I’ve always preferred the dogs playing poker. I can see them clearly and they don’t have a lot of yellow swirls on them. Besides, they all look like they’re having lots of fun. It’s nice that dogs can get away from their masters for an evening of wagering and cheap cigars.

I argue that Norman Rockwell is one of the best artists who has ever lived. His work speaks to everyone. And even though some of his paintings are pushing 100 years old, seeing a little boy making eyes at a little girl, watching a kid about to get a shot from the doctor, or seeing a faithful puppy following his master are all timeless scenes.

Charles Shulz also ranks as one of my top artists. Through the exploits of Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Snoopy, and the other characters, Peanuts helped me grow up and taught me that the world isn’t fair. Trees eat kites, just as the world eats people. Sometimes, you just have to suck it up and plow through. Don’t let the world get you down seemed to be Mr. Shulz’ message.

But, that’s the great thing about art, I guess. We all know what we like, and if we’re really rich, we can spend a lot of money on it.

Even if it’s only a $10 Ikea print.

©2015 John Moore

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