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Shippy's avatar

Are we losing beauty?

Asked by Shippy (9857 points ) October 26th, 2012

Art used to be beautiful, it found charm in the most simplest of activities like Rembrandt’s paintings of a woman reading. Or of course Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus.

Beautifully painted landscapes and vases of flowers. These were all unnecessary items, but one can argue and say all things are necessary some are just not needed. Buildings too, became so functional that people did not want to live in them anymore.

Art is always a reflection of society at any given point. Much like fashion. It is said (by himself) that Marcel Duchamp killed the creativity of art, he wanted to show realism. By show casing a urinal at an exhibition.

Realism is all over our society, another artist show cased a females bed, unmade and strewn with stockings and condoms. Is this Art?

Sex is also a thread that runs through art and history, as a sign of our times. Some artists showed people ‘vomiting’.

A lot of sexual activity these days also show cases ‘vomiting and spitting’. I feel sad. Have we lost beauty? Or is realism boring now, what will take it’s place?

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26 Answers

chyna's avatar

You only lose beauty if you allow it to be lost.
I would never patronize those types of exhibits that show vomit, fecuses, condoms, etc. I would never buy that type of “art”. I think such images are fleeting and will never be considered real art by most of the people that enjoy beauty.

Blackberry's avatar

You can still appreciate beauty, but others will do what they want to.

TheProfoundPorcupine's avatar

I think that in the world today a lot of people like to be seen as “edgy” and out there as if they have to be like that in order to get noticed. People seem to think it is the only way they can get ahead and achieve their 15 minutes of fame no matter what industry they are in.

I think technology and the internet has probably changed how we perceive beauty because of how quickly we can see all kinds of things and read so many opinions on what people think, but I do hope that we will reach a point where art and the idea of beauty will be like fashion where it goes in cycles and we revert back to a more traditional idea of beauty.

wundayatta's avatar

I think realism can be very beautiful.

I also think art can be quite political. Sometimes you need to show the ugly side of things in order to awaken them.

I feel we are in no danger of losing beauty. Beauty is not the only subject for art. And if beauty is all you want, there is plenty of it to be found.

DigitalBlue's avatar

I don’t think that art is obligated to be beautiful.

I also believe that beauty evolves, and there isn’t really a clear cut definition of what is beautiful and what isn’t, so I definitely don’t think we’re losing it. I see beautiful things, beautiful art, all the time.

flutherother's avatar

Artists try to convey what is in their souls which may be worth communicating even when it isn’t beautiful. I like to see strangeness in art and what appears merely unusual at first can grow on you and become a new kind of beauty. This is what art can do. It can expand our horizons and make us appreciate new things and new forms of beauty. Not all art does this. Some art conveys nothing to me at all.

Jeruba's avatar

I think there will always be a human appetite for the beautiful, both natural and artificial (man-made). It isn’t exclusively the province of art. Art has no obligation to create beauty (nor anything else), but there will always be some artists who do, even as the definitions of the beautiful change over time.

Ultimately I believe that beauty is a matter of perception and that a person can tune his or her perception to recognize beauty even in the most unlikely places.

flutherother's avatar

I agree with the question when it comes to architecture. How ugly and depressing modern buildings are. Every civilisation that existed before ours built beautifully and to last. We are the first to make ugly buildings that jar and do not blend in with their neighbours.

Shippy's avatar

@flutherother Yes, that was kind of the point of the question. Because Art exists as a projection of or manifestation of the state of society at any given time. I don’t think it is the other way around. So in this way, if this is so, we did lose beauty. I feel though it will change, and I am wondering how people feel about this, how society then valued urinals and vomiting.I understand that beauty is everywhere, what makes me sad is how “sad” society has become.

Coloma's avatar

I am in @flutherother ‘s camp when it comes to the ugliness of the industrialized world and what passes for ” architecture.”
I also do not consider vomit and shit to be art forms, sorry, it’s like comedians that can’t be funny without the overuse of profanity.
The easy, sleazy, pseudo, “artists” way out.

Judi's avatar

I’ve spent a lot of money on art but haven’t seen some of the things you speak of.
I wonder what will endure and stand out from the perspective of history? I hope it’s not urinals and vomiting.

Unbroken's avatar

I think there has always been controversial or ugly art in some form. The world needs all types of people who will enjoy all different sorts of beauty and ugliness. I believe in that regard we are no worse off or maybe we are better off because controversial art isn’t banned freedom of expression, that also means the freedom to chose what you like or dislike.

Shippy's avatar

@rosehips I dont condem realism. I live it. What I feel ‘sad’ about is as I said in an earlier comment, Art is a reflection of society at any given time. Has society then lost beauty? Perhaps the question would have been understood better.

Sunny2's avatar

I’m afraid your perception is apt. There is a lot that has evolved into ugliness, perhaps inadvertently, but it can get pretty nasty. A lot of people seem to enjoy sleaziness, and trying to be shocking to others. It often degrades things that are considered beautiful. It’s definitely a loss.

Unbroken's avatar

@shippy I may not understand your personal circumstance. I understand your pov. I have felt that very same way and sometimes do. But there is several other options of looking at realism. You are the filter. Bring your own insight into it.
As to society as a whole getting sadder, I doubt it. We may have gotten more open about it. But history is full of pain anguish and dysfunction.

zenvelo's avatar

Art is not strictly about beauty, it also reflects beliefs and suffering, even in the pre-renaissance and renaissance . Consider the paintings of the martyrdom of the saints: some of the most gruesome images anywhere, entrails and blood everywhere.

Or Hieronymus Bosch, insulting figures everywhere.

Art is not just beauty- art engages the emotions, There are lots of beautiful art works being producer. There are also those that make the viewer uncomfortable. If a piece makes you uncomfortable (and plenty bothers me) maybe you should examine what in the piece is bothering you.

By the way, DuChamp was using his art to break the strictures of the art establishment. The Bicycle Wheel was just in his studio for atmosphere. It’s fun to be around.

Bellatrix's avatar

I was just about to say there are plenty of non-beautiful examples of early art. Bosch was one of the first artists that came to my mind as @zenvelo mentioned. Similarly, Edvard Munch’s scream hardly represents or displays beauty. Art functions on many levels. I love Salvador Dali’s work and find it quite beautiful but the thing being painted or represented often isn’t.

Tracy Emin’s My Bed is about who she is. It’s been described as a confession. She is messy, slutty and insecure. Is she or her life less beautiful because she has those traits? Perhaps the beauty comes from her freedom and ability to share her own foibles with the audience, regardless of how she might be judged.

So, no I don’t think we are losing beauty but perhaps the parameters surrounding what is ‘beauty’ have changed.

Symbeline's avatar

Since art is subjective and always ’‘in the eye of the beholder’’, it gives it an excuse to be pretty much anything. Still, I don’t think we lost beauty, even if some of it might be ’‘labelled wrong’’. Not much into puking or spoof filled condoms, but I love images that show ruin, like abandoned buildings/railroads/graveyards and the like. And I do know the difference between someone taking a picture of a site on the go, and someone trying to get the best angle/view.
But I have a hard time with knowing what art is, and I’m not sure how to define it. Expression and creativity is my guess, and a lot of factors probably depend on the form of art. (drawing as opposed to photography, writing as opposed to acting)
Even if there’s something I don’t like or think is ugly or in bad taste, I won’t say it isn’t art, if it is, at least based on how I myself understand art. And I think realism has always bothered some people a bit, even centuries ago, when a painting of two people having normal, non puke sex offended everyone. That said, I certainly hope that puke fetishes don’t become the norm lol.
I don’t think we’re losing beauty, and there is a lot of expansion, and I can’t say where it’s all going, but as already said, there’s something for every taste, and someone to appreciate it all, somewhere.

Bellatrix's avatar

I was thinking further on this and I just wanted to add that those ‘beautiful’ paintings represent a constructed view of women and womanhood through the gaze of a man. Whether people like it or not, Emin’s work is her view of her life as a woman. Her realistic, honest view of herself as a woman is very appealing to me.

rooeytoo's avatar

Art doesn’t have to be pretty for me to appreciate it. Sometimes I simply appreciate the skill in the creation. I am a great fan of graffiti, there is some great art being scrubbed off of walls because society doesn’t approve. But it requires great skill. I think Emin’s work is an intimate statement but not art. No skill involved in being messy. There is always “beautiful” art being created but sometimes it is not shown because the artists getting the publicity and funding are the ones who are the weirdest, not the most skilled at their craft. This is one of my favorite paintings. I’m not sure if it is beautiful in the traditional sense of the word, but it touches my soul and I have spent hours sitting in front of it, losing myself in the colors and the mood it creates in my head. Great Question by the way, very thought provoking, and I agree puking and crapping is not art or entertainment by any definition even if depicted with great skill!

Coloma's avatar

Classic art depicting the sufferings of mankind throughout the ages is not even, remotely, comparable to slinging poo on a canvas and calling it “art.”
“Art” needs to have more heart than something two year olds and Chimpanzees do as part of their natural behaviors. lol

Sunny2's avatar

Art has never been only about beauty. It has been used in keeping records (in Egyptian caves); in recording history (pictures of battles); in illustrating religious figures (Pieta); in making pictures of everyday life (Breugel); in making political statements (Guernica). More modern art has become even more widely varied in terms of materials used and themes used. My point is that it has never been always beautiful. You can still find beauty in art, but the message these days, is often more important than the beauty. Look for your own beauty and don’t expect art to provide it for you.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Sunny2 – I don’t think art always has to include a “message,” or that it is the most important element. Sometimes my head just wants to be soothed with beauty and skill.

Shippy's avatar

@Sunny2 the question was about “Art is a reflection of society at any given point, have we lost beauty I am well aware of beauty, I asked, if society is losing it. falls on floor

zenvelo's avatar

@Shippy We have not lost beauty. What we are telling you is that we agree that art reflects society, but art has always had an ugly side, and also that there is plenty of beauty in current art.

Shippy's avatar

@zenvelo Yes, I thought everyone else ‘hadn’t got it’ but I wasn’t getting it. :)

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