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Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Closing arguments, part four:

Velázquez (chuckling):
No, no, no, Pablo. These are big enough ideas that your metaphors are welcome explorations. We are, a bit presumptuously trying to decide amongst ourselves some rather weighty issues. What is art? Which artists and art forms are worthy of our attention? What should we expect to see in an exhibition like the Biennale? Who is to decide which artists are good, and which are mediocre? And, for us at least, where does painting fit within this new carnival that may or may not be great art?

I like very much your suggestion that art is a conversation, a dialogue between the artist and viewer. This establishes a vital link between us and those who would enjoy art. Bravo! Es muy buena. And everyone is invited to the discussion, no? Those who choose to take part will be the better for it.

Leonardo, seeming somewhat distracted:
Uh ... uh, yes. That's right. Yes. What a good idea. I think I thought of that a long time ago. I am extremely intelligent, you know. This tobacco is a very good idea too. I wonder if it has medicinal properties. And why, when I look to the sea or the sky do the words "far out" so insistently enter my thoughts? Uh ... excuse me my friends, but I must make some notes while my mind is so clear ...  (pulls a notebook from a hidden pocket in his cape, stands and looks at the group for a long moment, and then, without a word, disappears in the streets that lead southwest from the piazza).

Velázquez (smiling indulgently and nodding to Leonardo as he leaves):
I come back to the point I made earlier about the amazing variety of art and artists that we see in this Biennale. Not only have people of all descriptions embraced their legitimate right to be artists, but they are using so many new materials and methods ... it's quite astonishing, and it is very difficult to appreciate such a broad array of creative expression, let alone decide which things are good and which are bad. For these reasons, it seems to me that the "sifting" we have talked about will take much longer than it once did when everything was a painting, a sculpture, or a close cousin to one of those.

These are all interesting ideas, but I have a different concern. My worry is that no one cares anymore. Well, perhaps I am overstating. Young artists sometimes seem not to care about the past (their predecessors, like us) or about the future. Their art is transient and disposable, and they are fine with that. It appears to me that people increasingly live for the present, having decided that the past is burdensome, and that the future is irrelevant, and may not even happen! Of course I am painting a whole generation with a very broad brush – an analogy you will all appreciate (he smiles) – and such generalizations are unfair. Then again, perhaps these artists are right, and I am simply old.

And there is this: if art is a conversation, has the conversation become so attenuated as to be no more than what is so pervasive today, a tweet?

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Historically accurate anecdotes are especially welcome.