August 11, 2005
4 out of 5 respondents surveyed failed to identify this man as the "real journalist" in a specially prepared photo lineup:
The fifth changed her mind as soon she saw him in action.
Worry not your pretty little heads over the old "what is art?" question, Mr. Einspruch et alia.
You see, by power of internets, 20/20's John Stossel and the web team at ABC News have struck upon an objectively scientific means of answering that most insidious of aesthetic queries: 200 x 200 pixel jpegs.
(I just aced the quiz, myself. How'd you do?)
We ran a test.
On ABCNews.com, we showed four reproductions of art works that are considered masterpieces of modern art along with six pieces that will never make it into any museum. We asked viewers to decide which work was art and which was not.
We also conducted the test with New Yorkers at Manhattan Mall. We asked people to tell us which artworks they'd expect to see in a museum. We included copies of the famous paintings, plus some other items.
(It's far too rigorous a methodology for my tastes, but then I'm not a television journalist.)
The results (as no doubt predicted ahead of time by one John Stossel himself) were far from pretty: "John Stossel found that a lot of people can't" distinguish modern art from "child's play" (emphasis mine). Downright damning.
That "most" of the "real artists" surveyed selected "at least some" of the kids' paintings as art is supposed to be damning on its face as well. As is the fact that the most votes overall, far from going to the "famous" artworks (which are really nothing of the sort in any real sense), went to "a piece of framed fabric '20/20' bought at a thrift store for $5." Nevermind that this lowly thrift shop fabric was obviously selected because of its resemblence to some truly well known art. Some might call such a move deliberately misleading, but let's not get carried away here. (Really, though, why not just go for the soup can bought from the supermarket?)
Nevermind that the tiny sample size was stacked with mostly non-art images. Nevermind that the reproductions of the "modern masters'" works are laughably inadequate (especially when it comes to their Ellsworth Kelly sample). Nevermind that general opinion on someone like Twombly is hardly a settled matter. And nevermind that Stossel's M.O. rarely rises above the standard anecdotal strategies of gotcha journalism.
No, clearly there's something insidious going on in this decadent, elitist art world and it's costing you, dear citizen, big big bucks:
The politicians may say they're starved for funds, but they're still giving your hard-earned tax dollars to museums that exhibit these kinds of things.
Now that our moustachioed libertarian hero has denuded the out of control, pork barrel boondoggles that are our public museums, perhaps he can still find time to tackle our latest federal Energy, Transportation and Farm Bills. Not until he's done taking the FDA out back over serving size and a remarkable lack of enjoyable sunscreens, or courageously busting up the myth of gaydar, though.
"Give Me A Break!"
Posted by Dan at 04:46 PM
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