Aphorisms for Artists by Walter Darby Bannard

Aphorism #64

When anything can be art, art is not much of anything.

In 1917 Marcel Duchamp bought a urinal, signed it “R. Mutt,” and entered it in the 1917 exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in New York. It was the opening skirmish in the populist campaign to demystify art. (“De-deify” in Duchamp’s words).

The battle is over. The “elitists” have scattered. Criteria are laughably passe. Art is whatever rides the waves of fashion.

Certainly everything should be available to art. But when a discipline loses touch with itself, standards melt away, and the enterprise becomes not demystified but demoralized.

When the obvious is made mysterious, the mysterious becomes unavailable.

Previous: When inspiration dies, imitation thrives.

Next: Art-making is just a lot of tricks and devices.

Table of Contents