"I CAN'T TALK TO YOU" 15" X 22" 1997
Okay. So van Gogh was a good painter.
Who do you think understood his work better than anyone? van? The director of some museum?
Indeed, maybe it's the director. I don't believe there is any hard and fast rule that the artist him/herself knows best.
But for the sake of this piece of writing, can we agree that van himself had at least a pretty good grasp as to the essential value of what he created? I think he liked his stuff. I think he probably had a pretty good eye.
Let's say he and I lived and painted at the same time and place. Do you think he would like my work? Or do you think he would see himself as being VAN GOGH (in letters ten feet high) and me as just being some guy from Cincinnati?
Personally, I think we'd trade paintings.
Okay. So maybe a couple of reasons as to why his work is so valuable today has to do with the fact that he is dead and there is only a limited supply.
But isn't it also true that they are valuable simply because they are nice things? Isn't it true that, if the historical Gogh had not been born until 1952, and he was painting the same works today, wouldn't they still be just as lovely to look at?
I think museums hype dead artists like religions hype dead prophets like galleries hype living art stars.
Obviously all of these inspirational figures have something going on or they would be unhypable.
But they are only human beings. The painters are only creating paintings. No one is creating solar systems.
I think that icon worship is the single greatest threat to the advancement of humankind. It holds everyone in check. It creates all this space, the best of space, where the average person dare not go.
Museums, galleries, religions...I think they do it out of insecurity. It's all about control. In order to maintain power, they have to control supply. Keep it limited and precious.
But that's so incredibly shortsighted and rather futile. You can't fence in the human spirit forever. Sooner or later, the walls will come tumbling down.
Great painters will always be a rare breed simply because great painting is very hard to do. It takes a lot of talent, discipline and effort.
But eventually, I don't see great painters as being any more rare than great doctors, lawyers or car mechanics. There is plenty of room for a number of them in every city.
And once that notion truly sinks in and more people decide to go for it, we will see the art market explode to everyone's benefit.
There is plenty for everyone.