Art and decorative arts

Radio Days

I was listening to a radio program discussing the painter Jean Michel Basquiat’s pasintings and one of the interviewees talked about how Basquiat’s paintings had stood the test of time. I am intrigued by the phrase, “stood the test of time”.

The decorative arts are measured differently than fine art. A chair that doesn’t work as a chair has a fundamental problem–it not only doesn’t stand the test of time, it does not get sold in the first place. Eighteenth century furniture had to function and be aesthetically pleasing. There was little margin for error. An uncomfortable or unsightly chair was not worth making.

I like Basquiat’s work. I always have. What I don’t like is the inevitable hype that accompanies any retrospective of an artist, alive or dead. Perhaps that is why I like the decorative arts so much. Hype can’t hide the lack of comfort or poor proportions or just plain bad craftsmanship.

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