Is Some Art “Good” (and is Some Art “Bad”)?

Kilmpt's The Kiss painting
Klimpt – Cropped The Kiss (2)

The Kiss by (c) Gustav Klimpt

Odd as it may sound, people often wonder if there really is “good” art versus “bad” art?

I believe both exist.

What is good art?

A quick story: I was at a friend’s house and in her primary bathroom, she had a framed copy of Gustav Klimpt’s painting of “The Kiss.”

I’ve always really liked that painting, as have the many thousands of people who have gone to see it.  First shown in 1908, it now hangs in the Osterreisches Galeries Bevedere in Vienna.

Anyway, I saw this little copy at my friend’s house and said “Oh!  Klimpt’s Kiss!” and my friend said “What?”

“That little framed piece you have of the painting of Klimpt’s Kiss!”

“Oh, is it a painting?” she asked.  “I got it as one of my wedding gift cards and it was so pretty, I framed it.”

As she’d received about 100 wedding cards and didn’t frame any of the others, I’d say we can agree that something about that famous piece of art is, indeed, good.  Most people have found it uniquely compelling for well over 100 years.

While I would always say that infants are either “calm” or “fussy, rather than good or bad, I have no qualms believing that there is some very good art and some very bad art.

We may not all like the same art, but that doesn’t mean that a piece that doesn’t speak to me may not be good art.  Also, it may speak to you.

For example, anime art is hugely popular and wildly successful.  Some of it is clearly very, very good.

However, I don’t want that art in my home or my office.  It doesn’t speak to me.  Yet I can clearly see that some of it is beautifully crafted, colorful, attractive and extremely creative.

The same thing goes for very challenging figurative art.  Some pieces portray extreme poverty, or physical pain, or mental anguish.

Again, it may not be something I want to own, but is it compelling?  Yes.

Might it be technically awesome? Yes.

It can be good art, and still not be something I want to look at every day.

Damien Hirst, one of the wealthiest and most noteworthy contemporary artists in the world, is most famous for his piece which is quite literally a tiger shark in formaldehyde in a glass case.

It’s terrible to look at, yet much like a car accident, a bit hard to turn away from.  It is compelling.  It is original.  It is though-provoking. The piece is named “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living.” It is good art.  It’s just not my taste.

What about bad art?

If you’ve read some of my blog posts, you will be aware that I find color Xeroxes of paintings to be less than optimal for luxury hotels, luxury office buildings, luxury multifamily lobbies and luxury homes.

Color copies are simply incongruous with luxury spaces.  (And yes, a giclee is 100 percent a color copy from an inkjet printer.  It’s just on nice paper.)

However, for those on a budget, one can still choose between a color copy of great art versus a color copy of something where the original art was not good, or even bad.

In my view, bad art has two sources.

The first, and most abhorrent to me, is art that was created because someone thought it would sell.

It’s a blob of color or yet another Marilyn Monroe with sparkles on it.  One has to believe there’s no artist behind that art.  There’s simply a salesperson taking advantage of people with blank walls.

The second source of bad art can come from someone who has meaning behind their work, yet they are not talented.

I’m one of those people.  Despite my passion for a subject, I am simply not capable of creating a good painting.  I can’t get the idea in my head onto the canvas.

I’ve tried glass blowing, ceramics, jewelry-making, painting, and leather crafts.  I had an absolute blast doing all those things, but even I could see that they were awful.

Many of my fellow students made gorgeous pieces from the beginning.  Certainly training and practice improves most everyone with any skill.

But clearly, I am hopeless.  I just don’t possess that talent.

Luckily, I don’t go out to fairs or go online and try to sell what I make.

However, some people do.  Some people, who either know it’s not good and don’t care, or have been overly solicited to by their family and friends, do indeed offer bad art for sale.

It’s not well done.  It’s not well crafted.  It’s not compelling.

I’m thinking when you ponder it, you realize that you’ve seen that, too.  Pretty much everyone can see the difference.

Regardless how low the price on bad art is, it’s too much.

So now that you know that there is good art and bad art, please select good art that is both compelling, and that is something you want in your home or your commercial space.

It doesn’t need to be expensive, it just has to be good.