When I was a young teen, I fancied myself artistically talented. I drew and sketched all the time. I kept notebooks of drawings. I had a modest portfolio or two. I took art classes in high school. Even back then I recognized my talent was drastically inferior to my friend Jennifer (whose book-cover sketches of horses were legendary in our school), but to me art was fun and creative.

Then in my first quarter of college, I decided to try a more advanced art class. Aside from the instructor’s constant and creepy obsession with recruiting naked models for us to sketch (oh how I blushed!), it was the first time I realized how subjective the art world really is.

There was a boy in my class with a natural talent that rivaled my friend Jennifer’s. His sketches were bold and confident. On one of our assignments (a self-portrait in pencil), his portrait was startlingly realistic.

But for whatever reason, the instructor didn’t like the student’s style. He didn’t like “realism” and preferred abstract. The instructor consistently gave the student low grades (even I, with my wimpy style, scored higher) and criticized every assignment the student submitted. Discouraged, the boy dropped the class.

I never took an art class again. If art was so subjective that a highly talented student was in danger of failing because he didn’t conform to the instructor’s preference for abstract, then I wanted nothing to do with the art world. (Also, I finally recognized my artistic talent had plateaued around age 12.) Still, I felt very sorry for that student and hoped he wasn’t too discouraged to continue practicing his skill.

This is a suitable junction to admit I’m a cultural cretin. The subtleties and nuances of art that send critics into raptures and turn investors into collectors absolutely baffles me. I have a few art books among our vast library, but any art fancier will scoff at my preferences (Maxfield Parrish? Norman Rockwell? Walter Brightwell?).

All of this is a lead-up to an opinion piece by Matt Margolis I read a few months ago entitled “Can’t We Just Admit That Modern Art Is Garbage?

Margolis points out how a modern art gallery had a masterpiece by Dutch artist Piet Mondrian entitled “New York City I,” which had been hanging upside down for decades. How, you may ask, can an art piece hang upside down and no one noticed for so long? Well, click on this link to see the artwork. Then you’ll understand.

“Good heavens,” exclaimed my (equally cretin) husband when he saw the artwork. “It’s so evocative of … Tinker Toys.”

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He’s right. You could flip that canvas 90 degrees in any direction and it would all look the same to me. What am I missing? What makes this artwork so special? What would happen if I painted colored lines on a canvas? Would my efforts be hailed as brilliant?

“If we go along with the experiment and rotate ‘New York City I’ by 180 degrees,” claims the museum in its catalog, “we find that the picture still ‘works.’ In fact, it functions extremely well: the composition gains in intensity and plasticity.”

Gains in intensity and plasticity. Isn’t this just a fancy way of saying they can’t figure it out either?

The verbiage used to describe modern art has long been mocked for its absurdity. Phrases such as “juxtaposing against the geometric perspective” and “representing the angst and energy oscillating through a metropolis” are thrown about in an effort to convince the viewer that the canvas in front of them is something more than squiggles, blotches, lines, or other output frequently executed by kindergartners.

While I don’t care for the work of such modern artists as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, or Andy Warhol, at least these artists put some effort into their works. But click on the link to see Joseph Marioni’s masterpiece “Yellow Painting.” Yes, this is considered a serious work of art. Must have taken him five whole minutes to execute it.

The “plasticity” of modern art is such that hoaxes are not uncommon. In 1964, for example, Swedish journalist Åke Axelsson introduced a series of paintings by an unknown French avant-garde artist called Pierre Brassau that created a buzz among critics. The pieces were described as “painted with powerful, determined strokes” that yet “had the delicacy of a ballet dancer.” However, these critics were forced to defend their assessments after learning “Pierre Brassau” was a 4-year-old chimpanzee.

Or how about the two teenagers in 2016 who, while visiting the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, spontaneously placed a pair of eyeglasses on an empty patch of floor? The new “exhibit” drew visitors who stared at, admired, and photographed the glasses as if they were witnessing something marvelous.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, tells you everything you need to know about modern art. It’s neither “intense” nor “plastic.” It’s stupid.

“Modern art can be pretty much anything that consists of two ingredients,” concludes Matt Margolis. “1) Zero talent and 2) a gullible audience convinced of its value.” I’m forced to agree with him.

“The problem with modern art isn’t just the lack of creativity, it’s the fact that the sole directive of it, is to elicit a response,” notes Michael D’Elia in an essay called “Modern Art is Stupid.” “The majority of the time one feels as though [they’re] being mocked and having their intelligence made fun of, given they are told by the philistines of the wondrous and awe-inspiring new clothes worn by their emperor, yet they refuse to admit that their emperor is in fact naked.”

For a superb analysis of why modern art is stupid – narrated by Robert Florczak, a professional artist who is most assuredly NOT a cretin – watch this short video. He explains things so much better than I ever could. There’s even a hilarious kicker at the very end.

On the other hand, consider this: One of Piet Mondrian’s abstract paintings (described as possessing a “serene sense of compositional balance and spatial order, and with superb provenance”) just sold for $51 million, setting a new auction record for the Dutch artist’s work. I guess P.T. Barnum had it right when he purportedly said there’s a sucker born every minute.

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