Posted by: Phil Anderson | September 27, 2015

What is Art?

Grand Rapids, Michigan is hosting the seventh annual ArtPrize, an international art show with over 1,500 entries spread throughout the city. I spent many hours there over the past few days and saw a lot of beautiful, inspiring, thought-provoking pieces. I also saw some silly, tacky, and disturbing examples of artistic expression. I was awestruck by a few, and several times found myself thinking, “This is art?”

Any description of what I specifically liked and disliked will reveal my complete lack of sophistication and good taste, but in general the entires I was unimpressed by fall into three categories:

  1. Entries that seemed thrown together with little care, thought, or skill. Perhaps it took a lot of time and attention to give the appearance that it was made by a five-year-old, but I suspect more often that the “artist” just said, “This is good enough.”
  2. Entries that were confusing or downright baffling. I can enjoy beauty, design, and color in abstraction, but some artwork just left me scratching my head. These reactions may result from the fact that I am an uncouth Philistine, but many pieces of art made the attempt at expressing a deeper meaning without being able to fully accomplish it. Accompanying “artist statements” occasionally brought clarity and appreciation, but more often made even less sense than the artwork itself, as if the artist could neither express himself in art nor in words.
  3. My least favorite displays were those that made heavy-handed attempts to bash me over the head with a political message. I support the freedom of expression, and I’m not afraid to have my viewpoint challenged by a thought-provoking composition, but I see very little aesthetic beauty in politics.

What kind of art do you enjoy? What speaks to you? What turns you off? Leave your comments below and let’s discuss it.


  1. […] last week’s post about art and what it means (or doesn’t mean) to me, I’ve been thinking about the […]

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