H. de Roos - The critique of the toronto exhibition


The Toronto Exhibition As A Conceptual Art Work?

In a recent article, Milroy meditates on her role as an art critic, faced with wide-spread intolerance towards Modern Art:

Who knows what makes visual art so hard for people to cope with? For whatever reason, it seems to be pilloried more in the public domain than other art forms. As an art critic, you are mindful of this. 
If people don't understand a work of art, they will often not simply move on; they will dig in and actively hate. As we found in Canada in recent years, they can even hate things as benign as a Barnett Newman painting, or a Jana Sterbak sculpture. (...) They will try to have the harbouring institution's funding cut. They will go on Canada AM and blow spittle, venting their indignation and blubbering about wasted tax dollars. All because they don't understand.

(...) To do my job (as an art critic), I must have a foot in both camps -- the ivory tower and the workaday world.

The gulf between the two has never been greater. More than any other discipline, the visual arts have sequestered themselves behind a wall of specialized language that leaves even literate and educated members of the public reaching for the Tylenol. One could argue that the visual-arts community is now reaping what it has sown; giant gaps in understanding have yawned. Take the whole notion of technical, manual proficiency as the leading criterion of artistic mastery, for example. It's been an outmoded notion at least since Duchamp's famous designation of the urinal as art back in 1917, yet it still complicates and muddies the public's ability to appreciate contemporary art and its new languages, which often draw from life in direct or transgressive ways.

[From: Sarah Milroy, Viagra and the role of the art critic, 29 Nov. 2001 in Toronto Globe and Mail]

The rupture is obvious. Milroy discards "the whole notion of technical, manual proficiency as the leading criterion of artistic mastery" as "outmoded", yes, even muddying and complicating "the public's ability to appreciate contemporary art and its new languages". So what to think of Milroy´s September article now, rejecting the exhibited Rodin foundry plasters as industrial products, lacking the manual touch of the Master himself? Outmoded? Muddying and complicating the public´s ability to appreciate one of the Fathers of Modernism?

Was Marcel Duchamp´s urinal ever something else than an industrial product? What makes Duchamp´s "designation of the urinal as art"  in 1917 "famous", while William Moore´s designation of the Rudier foundry plasters as art in 2001 provokes Milroy´s scorn?
The fact Rodin died the same year Duchamp´s sent in the urinal, so that paradigmatic change triggered by this act can not be applied "backwards" to Rodin´s work? Or the fact Duchamp was an artist, and William Moore is a Museum director?

Would it change anything if we know William Moore has been a conceptual artist before he became a Museum Director, and Marcel Duchamp despised the professional artist role?
Would it change anything if we would find out, some foundry plasters were made in the 1950´s and therefore would be more modern than Duchamp´s urinal?

If the amateur-artist Duchamp could send his industrial urinal, signed "R. Mutt", to New York and have this industrial piece of porcelain celebrated as art, why should the former conceptual artist Moore not send a modern,  industrial foundry plaster, signed "A. Rodin" to Toronto and have it celebrated as art as well? We all know Moore did not make those plasters and that is name is not "A. Rodin". But Duchamp did not make the urinal either and his name was not R. Mutt (or Mott) either. Mott was the name of the New York plumbing store where Duchamp claimed to have acquired the urinal. As a matter of fact, the type of urinal Duchamp exhibited in 1917 never was listed in the Mott plumbing catalogs, so that the physical origin of the famous Fountain still is a mystery (see Shearer) - pretty much like the origin of the Maclaren plasters....

What is the difference between the cases, and if there is one, how does it affect the value of the MacLaren plasters and what consequences should it have for the entrance fee of the exhibition?

To examine the questions of originality, meaning and value from a fresh, contemporary perspective, you are invited to join me on an EXCURSION to New York, London, Chicago and Munich, see some Modern Art and meet the winners of the Turner Prize.

Click this arrow to SKIP the excursion





Advanced Search and Search Rules

Advanced Search & Search Rules

Terms of Use  Copyright Policy    Menu missing?  Back one page  Reload this page   Top of this page 

Notice: Museum logos appear only as buttons linking to Museum Websites and do not imply any
formal approval of RODIN-WEB pages by these institutions. For details see Copyright Policy.
© Copyright 1992 - September 2003 for data collection & design by Hans de Roos - All Rights Reserved.
Last update of this page: 22.09.2003