A Taste for the Horrid – “Ist das Kunst oder kann das weg?”

The German phrase gives a very good sarcastic expression of a concept that sounds more or less like this: “is this art, or can I throw it in the rubbish?”

There are art currents which focus precisely on trash or kitsch taste, and have their place in specific environments and cultures; an example is that part of Mexican art that is connected to the Pre-Columbian cult of the dead (celebration of the “dia de los Muertos”).

They find their artistic ground in historic traditions, but most of all they have “stories to tell”, which are worth discovering.

This aspect of trash art is often adopted as a creative solution, in lack of a true valid artistic project.

“Horrid” is used as a medium to raise a stir, surprise, comments.
Some works become viral, they go around the world.

They collect thousands of likes on social sites. And then?

In 99% of cases, all this leaves the artist, the Genius of the Day, with lots of visibility, a fistful of likes, and close to ZERO revenues.

And then?

Like all artists, even our Genius of the Day must pay his bills, just like every mortal on Earth.

But there is more. To keep practicing his art, he needs raw materials to make more artworks.

This is where things come up.

The artist, the Genius of the Day, has two choices:
– he can use recycled or scrap material
– or he can buy new materials, sinking deeper in debt.

This is where one should start asking questions:

How long will the Genius of the Day resist to the pressure of debt that results from having to buy new materials?

How long will it take until he chooses the simplest solution, that comes for free, and will start picking up scraps to use for his artworks, peddling them as great creative intuitions?

And

You, the art-loving client, do you really want to hang, install, show in your home, villa, hall of your hotel, bank, or company, an artwork that is CLEARLY the result of dump-scavenging?

Let me remind you something: the way in which you show up before your peer group, or your clients, is the way in which they will judge you.

And the treatment you will give them, submitting them to the vision of an artwork of horrid taste, will communicate WHAT YOU REALLY THINK OF THEM: you do not care of their feelings, and you give for granted that their emotional perception is HORRID.

I remember five years ago, an acquaintance of mine told me of how she had worked for an artist, a Genius of the Day, who made works in pseudo-mosaic, using materials that were far from top quality.

She said that due to the high reputation the artist was enjoying at the time, he had managed to sell one of his artworks to a bank.

Proud of their purchase, the bank management displayed the artwork at the entrance of the headquarters of the bank, where the most prestigious clients would pass.

One of such important clients was visiting the bank, and stopped by the artwork to watch it, in the most visible position in the main hall. He said:

“it’s HORRIBLE! It almost frightens me.”

The story does not tell what happened thereafter; how difficult it was, for the director of the bank, to re-establish a positive mood with the client.

All we know is that on the evening of the same day, after the visit of this client, the artwork was given a special treatment: it was removed to the bank’s vaults.

Well wrapped and protected, for sure: but out of sight.

They decided to keep it, hoping that some day the author of the artwork, the Genius of the Day, may become truly famous; then they can sell the artwork and recover the cost, and maybe make some small profit.

To the best of my knowledge, the artwork is still in the vaults. There is no trace of it in any catalogue, auction, or social media.

You may think that buying an artwork of questionable taste, or openly horrid, made by some Genius of the Day, is a good idea. In most cases it turns out to be a failure.

For sure it does not facilitate your relationship with your most prestigious clients, the ones that really count for you.

Let me tell you something:  these people, the ones who are really committed to leading their business empires, are used to everything.
They have seen it all, and they are sick and tired of the artsy rubbish they have been in contact with; their tolerance for art mystification amounts to ZERO.

I am sure you will agree with me that putting your client in a negative mood, perhaps just before an important negotiation, is hardly a winning choice.

Emotions have a tremendous impact on decisions, whatever you may think about it.

You may have spent a small fortune to turn your office – company headquarters, hotel, your own home – into an architectural jewel, entrusting the direction to the best among the living architects.

And then?

You go and spoil all the magic and wonder, displaying a single horrible artwork, that focuses all your guest’s attention, and ends up depressing him, or still worse, turning him against you?

Isn’t it better if you think twice, before you buy from the Genius of the Day, seek a bit more, assess the artist more in depth, and as you behold one of his artworks, ask yourself:

“IST DAS KUNST ODER KANN DAS WEG?“

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