The Question of Taste

Link: Grayson Perry’s Reith Lecture ‘Democracy Has Bad Taste’. Listen here:

Are 'good' taste and popularity mutually exclusive? To put these two factors in the same category would be condemning us to all think the same, quite unlike artists. People can make their cases but it will always be one opinion, you will never see exactly what someone else sees, taste is subjective. If an artist presents their work with a full description of the intention behind it, this too can always succumb to multiple opinions. When it comes to judgement the individual uses their personal knowledge, understanding, and experience to inform their taste. Becoming more aware of art, people want to know how they can judge it, taking power away from appreciating purely through the senses. Artwork can evoke but not contain feeling, that emotion comes from the individual themselves.

Grayson Perry suggests that popularity comes with validation from enough of the right people such as artists, teachers, dealers, collectors, critics, curators, the media and sometimes the public. Curators can then decide to exhibit these burgeoning artists so they will bring in the public therefore the visitor numbers increase as does the artists renown in the public, the art therefore receives its quality not from the art itself but from popular praise of the public. The difference in taste being that despite its popularity someone could still dislike the work itself.

The greatest artist in the world could not have good publicity therefore no one would know about them. Does their lack of popularity make them a bad artist? It ties into the question of taste – if someone could realise an artist of this potential to be of the highest quality, but is not in an artworld position that can give validation, is it of any lesser value? Is it not good? Popularity will always benefit from positive statistics.

My taste was influenced by the popular artists who's replicated paintings hung on the walls of my parent's home such as Van Gogh, Renoir, Constable, Monet and Klimt. I was always a lover of art, but it was an encounter with Turner's work that lead me to pursue the subject academically. By viewing art through the lens that of an educated artist, my tastes are changing, yet they are still based upon those formative years where I was exposed to the work of the masters.

Education has afforded me the opportunity to experiment with mediums outside of my original focus of painting, and having tried my hand at sculpture, photography, printmaking and installation I have broadened my understanding and respect of these different mediums. My tastes have developed along with my subject knowledge, I can notice quality in artwork whether or not it is popular, and this means I have a wider range of artists who inspire my taste and my artwork.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Heidelberg, 1846

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