BASEL, SWITZERLAND - JUNE 10: Piotr Uklanski's Untitled (Open Wide), 2012, at Unlimited, Art Basel is displayed on June 10, 2013 in Basel, Switzerland. Unlimited, Art Basel runs from the 13th of June until the 16th of June 2013. (Photo by Getty Images for Piotr Uklanski)

Modern Art Is Crap

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10 mins read

If everything is art, then nothing is.

All the great art of Western Civilization rests on the same underlying principle: through hard work, inspiration, and commitment to his craft, the artist produces a work that connects the human to the Divine. Divinity’s messengers come in a variety of different forms and shapes, but they all bear the same standard.

Christianity has properly identified this standard as coming from God. Even those that aren’t Christian have realized that art, proper art, lifts us up, connects us to the sublime; it enlivens the mind and heart.

Art draws on our myths and our tales of adventure and great deeds.

Art illuminates critical events in our history, passing that connection down from generation to generation, giving us continuity and a sense of our own past.

Art, great art, moves the soul in sublime ways.

Modern art fails on all accounts.

There is nothing sublime about it.

It connects no one to nothing.

There is no shared history it carries, no connection of the past to the present.

It tries to elevate the dross to gold and declare gold to be dross.

This will be just a thumbnail sketch, a brief overview, a quick flyby, so buckle up and please hold your questions until the end.

Let’s begin.

Here’s the inside of a Greek drinking cup, a kylix, that depicts Hercules and Athena, around 480 BC.

Hercules was a divine hero in Greek mythology, a paragon of manly virtues. Athena was the patron goddess of Athens, the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization. Together, they showed strength and wisdom. In other words, as someone drank out his cup, he’d see these two at the bottom, a frequent reminder that there were greater things than just a good drink.

The Greeks, to whom we owe much, had many such examples.

Early Christian Art.

Christians rejoiced in the Lord and Savior, the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Their art reflected their worship.

The Christian art world followed the two major cultural influences, Eastern Roman Empire and Western.

The Eastern Roman Empire, which later became known as Byzantium, went for a more symbolic approach over strict naturalism. They also widely used mosaics in their artwork, creating scenes that highlighted the Divine Nature of Christ and Holy Saints.

The Western Roman Empire followed a more naturalistic school of thought.

On either side, though, the works of art were done as a form of praise and celebration of Christ and their faith. The art lifts the soul upward, toward something greater than just the here and now, toward God. The best works are sublime.

I’m going to skip over several generations of greatness. I warned you it was going to be quick. But just for a quick taste, enjoy this painting from the great Raphael:

Modern Art.

Now, look at this. It’s an inversion of everything that art once was.

It’s one of the best-known pieces of junk passed off as art. As a prank, I can see it. As art, it’s not.

It gets worse.

Instead of elevating the soul, instead of encouraging the viewer to look upward, modern art soothes the viewer with pretty little lies of his own inflated self-worth. It asks the viewer to wallow in the mud and declares there is nothing beyond. It perverts what art should be and inverts the purpose. No longer does it lift, it drags down. No longer is it sublime, it is crass and vulgar. No longer is the artist challenged to surpass his skills and techniques in a bold attempt to honor and praise the Almighty or His works; modern art disdains skill and hard work, asking nothing but a lukewarm effort to satisfy novelty and flatter the bottomless ego. Modern art drags man down, and with him, nature.

It gets worse.

This is “The Bridge at Villeneuve-la-Garenne” by Alfred Sisley. It’s a fine painting, done in the Impressionist style. He depicts nature as she is, and man’s works upon her face for what they are.
Whether or not Impressionism is your thing, Sisley exhibits skill. His works might lack the sublime nature of the old masters, but he hews closer to reality than what comes next.


Cezanne. Look at this muddled mess. It looks like a rough draft, a young student practicing, an unskilled ham-fisted wanna-be artist marring a clean canvas with his shoddy workmanship and poor work ethics.

Had that been the low point, we could have recovered. Post-Impressionism would have slunk off into the history trash heap and we could have all pointed and laughed.

But it gets worse.

The Germans went ahead and doubled down on the stupid and developed Expressionism.

Take a look at this example: Impressionism on one side, Expressionism on the right.

It’s clear something has gone off the rails in the art world.

Instead of creating works that uplift the human spirit by pointing to the beauties of nature and even higher to nature’s God, art now shoves your face in excrement and demands you find the sublime in it.

This isn’t art, it’s vandalism, held up as art by those that hate beauty.

The list keeps going.
Jackson Pollock is a prime example of non-art being upheld as works of sophistication and nuance.

Far from being Supper at Emmaus, Pollack merely splatters paint on a canvass. It looks like when anyone splatters paint on canvass.

No one can recreate a Caravaggio by accident.

Part of the problem is easily traced back to Marxism critical theory. The theory is amazingly simple, though trapped in a glossy veneer of academia speech. In short it’s thus: whatever is normal and right, criticize it. Throw whatever you want at it. Whine about inequalities, complain about power structures, sneer at class consciousness. The last thing you want to do is connect the human soul to anything greater than a narrow sphere, bounded by jealousy and pettiness, circumscribed by a meanness of spirit that has been stunted and corrupted by demonic influences.

Another pillar of this descent into the crass and meaningless is they whine about “self-expression” being integral.

Toddlers “self-express”. Adults learn, struggle, master, try and fail, keep improving technique and style.

Your feelings don’t matter. Screw your feelings.

Narcissistic navel gazing produces Tracey Emin’s “My Bed”. There is nothing but dross with them, and they insist it’s actually the highest form of expression.

Compared to the great works produced by God-fearing men for centuries, we’ve been sold a crap sandwich and told it’s healthy with a superb taste for the most discerning.

Art, as its function to connect the human soul outward and up, has been subverted into directing the soul inward and down. Art rubs your face in feces and tells you this is the extent of reality.

What to do about?

First, recognize we’ve been hoodwinked and bamboozled. What passes for art today isn’t art at all. It’s spiritual-psychological warfare aimed at the human soul.

Second, look for and support alternatives. The Art Renewal Project may not understand the spiritual component, but anything that at least recognizes reality and celebrates hard-won skills and techniques in expressing reality truthfully is headed in the right direction.

Third, take a stand when you can to announce the postmodern Emperor has no clothes.

Fourth, make your own. If for no other reason you will gain a greater appreciation of the Masters.

Art, when it’s functioning correctly, is an intrinsic part of the human soul. We’ve lost ground, this is true, and the art establishment is firmly working for the Enemy. All this does is make the battle more worthwhile.

We will reclaim art’s rightful place in Western Civilization.

32 Comments

  1. Brief, but all valid points. Nice summary.
    Encourage people to visit the Art Renewal Center at artrenewal.org

  2. It’s spiritual-psychological warfare aimed at the human soul.
    The same thing is happening in architecture for the same reasons. Many newer buildings (especially paid for by taxpayers via gullible city councils and art taxation districts) are purposely disorienting, purposely dehumanizing, purposely designed to inflict the creator’s alienation and barrenness of soul on unsuspecting passersby. If you wonder why you feel depressed and unhinged walking through some expensive new marvel of architecture, realize that you are supposed to.

  3. Yes, all of this. I was something of a provocateur in my art classes when I would say out loud such things as: “Dada-ism is a joke. A good joke, but still a joke.”, ” ‘Abstract’ is code for ‘Lazy’ or ‘Bad'” and worst “I friggin’ HATE Mondrian. Feckin squares, man, who the heck wants to look at that, much less pay for it?”
    The same happened with music. Western Music went off the rails circa 1916, and only movie soundtracks (bless Prokofiev for bridging that gap) and other stage music (and a bit with jazz, though it followed off the rails) kept it alive enough to start making a comeback after the turn of the century. (((Schoenburg))) killed Western music, and his student Cage crapped on remains. Which isn’t to say that the study of their “music” isn’t interesting, just that it isn’t music, by definition. (Although 4 ‘ 33″ is hilarious in concept, a Dadaist piece if anything ever was it’s not music).
    There are some composers finally kicking all that “20th Century” nonsense into the rubbish bin where it belongs. Morten Lauridsen’s “O Magnum Mysterium” is popular with choral groups for very good reason, and it shows that Western Composers can still work to lift up the soul, if only the composer bothers to try. Here’s to hoping the next generation of musicians and composers follows suit.

    • Music has had a lot of the same B.S. pushed on it.
      Popular music, for all its faults, at least maintains some connection between people.
      Classical music, the works that tug on the soul, has retreated into movie soundtracks and stage, like you said.
      “Cage crapped on remains” <- This is completely correct.

  4. I am reminded of a great story of history.
    In Florence there are statues depicting david killing goliath all around. There are several. They focus on his strength and his accomplishment. Almost all of them include Goliath’s head.
    Then… you see the most famous statue of David.. micheal angelo’s. And it is very different. His David is serene.
    When asked about this… Michael Angelo said, “The battle David fought was in his own mind… with himself. The confrontation with Goliath was of no consequence because the outcome had already been determined by the battle David had already won with himself.”

  5. The blood of the hero is closer to God than all the ink of the philosophers and prayers of the pious.

    • “The blood of the hero is closer to God than all the … prayers of the pious.”
      Doesn’t sound right.
      “And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.”
      The prophets known for their prayers are greater than the kings known for their slaughter.

  6. Appropriate are the words of my children’s art teacher from an email I received yesterday:
    “Art at [school] is unique because we are not content with self-expression as an end goal. We reference masterpieces that are objectively and universally understood as beautiful and our student works attempt to emulate the piece or some skill or aspect of that piece. Beginning students are guided through a work from start to finish, but are coached via Socratic Method throughout the process, so they understand how and why the artwork is made. By fourth and fifth grades, they are confident and skilled enough to tackle a piece with just feedback from myself and their peers. You will never hear a [school] artist say ‘I can’t draw.’ They know they can. Our program is rigorous, but the joys of challenge and accomplishment are as lovely as the students’ paintings.”
    Another quote I enjoyed: “Art is a sustained exercise in visual problem-solving, and our students learn which tools to use, and how to synthesize what they learn and know into something brand new.”
    With these tools my children are prepared to enjoy art, connect with it, and play with it throughout their lives, far better than I currently can. They also are inoculated against the soul-crushing, despair-inducing rubbish Boethius describes.
    The West rises again!

    • That’s great news!
      No matter how many layers of filth they pile on, light always finds a way in.

    • I hit Amazon to check it out and read the preview.
      Mr. Wolfe is dead on and flenses away the clouds of obfuscation with expert precision in the part I read.
      Thank you for the suggestion!

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