‘Modern Art’ -Trash, Trick or Treasure?


James Lang, Online Editor

Have you ever looked at modern art and thought, “Wow, I could do that.” I’m sure a lot of you have. But in reality, there are people who have done that, and you didn’t. Take Robert Ryman, a modernist who created the work Bridge in 1980. It sold for a massive twenty point six million dollars at a Christie’s auction in 2015. If you haven’t seen it, I suggest looking at the picture attached. I know we grayscale pictures for printing, but trust me, we didn’t need to for this one. So the question is ‘how is an all white painting considered art?’ and how did Ryman manage to sell it for twenty million dollars?

The movement that brought this on is called “Minimalism,’ which started in the 1950s. The fad of white paintings can be traced back to Kazimir Malevich’s work White on White in 1918 which sold for sixty million in 2008. With works like White Stone, Untitled, and a Study for Homage to the Square, each practically identical, and each selling for at least four million USD, it’s easy to be confused and rather frustrated that these ‘artists’ are making millions doing what you could do.

While it’s tempting to think that just some random person poured white paint onto a canvas and called it a day there, there’s surprisingly a lot more going on behind the scenes. While I myself didn’t believe it at first, there’s more than just a white canvas. Minimalists use lines, textures, patterns, and even colors-yes colors-of white paint. The Minimalist artists made their work embody harmony, order, and simplicity, which was a direct contrast to other ‘modern’ art at the time which followed the idea of abstract expressionism. Abstract expressionism is a form of modern art started in the 1940s that revolve around the idea of art being expressive and gestural. Art with hundreds of colors and lines following no specific pattern fall under this category. But this type of art gets much weirder.

A modern artist by the name of Paul Branca created a piece of work that was composed of cardboard, crumpled paper, and plastic which had an estimated value of fifteen thousand USD. While on display in Italy, a cleaning woman threw it away mistaking it for trash. Another piece of modern ‘art’ that was composed of cardboard and paper by Sala Murat, was also thrown away by cleaners in 2014. And yet again, the piece valued at ten thousand USD. So if art gallery cleaners have gotten so easily confused and then thrown away this ‘art’ valuing at the price of a used car, should the art really be considered art? Or is it trash? In my opinion, if someone calls it art, it’s art. But as soon as you start paying several million dollars for a piece of work that needs to be checked regularly to prove it’s absolutely authentic, it starts getting out of hand. Also what goes through the buyer’s heads, getting these pieces of ‘mistaken’ trash for thousands of dollars. Modern art is something I enjoy, but I certainly don’t like it enough to spend several million on it.