Art and Originality

William Gaddis’ book, “The Recognitions” , is a dense novel filled with abstruse references, a few of which I can grasp and some which flow right by me. The vocabulary is equally dense and his prose borders on poetry from time to time. At one point, his protagonist, Wyatt Gwyon, utters a terrific and memorable line, “every work of art is a perfect necessity”. The statement redounds with meaning and speaks of the nature of art and its sense of originality and uniqueness.

English antique furniture from the 18th century is not original in the sense that its source is a continuum of design that spread through Europe in the early to mid 18th century. However, in the sense that every craftsmen becomes a designer in the making of a piece of furniture, every piece is unique. It is this which makes 18th century English furniture so compelling. As compelling as later design is in the 19th and 20th centuries, and some of it most certainly is for its original use of materials and clean design, it is the 18th century that works so well for me.

Contemporary art, as far as I can see, is driven by investment value. There are names who have made the grade and most that have not. I don’t think it is because of the intrinsic value of their work in either case, it is more about who can make the best case for being a cause celebre. Money counts in this world of art and it will be interesting if future generations agree or believe that this world of the early twenty-first century was crazy. As far as I can see, perfect necessity seems the last thing on peoples minds these days

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