“Arab Spring: Modern Middle Eastern Art Finds a New Audience in the West” discusses the introduction of Middle Eastern modern art in America. American museums have even been holding exhibits exclusively of modern Middle Eastern art. A lot of the art is visually similar to iconic modernists such as Picasso, due to the fact that the artists study in places like Paris and Rome. However, they incorporate their own themes that are relevant to where they live. “Artists v Critics, Round One” covers a dispute between James Abbott McNeill Whistler and John Ruskin. Both writings cover the question of who can create modern art.
In the first one, an art historian mentions how difficult it is to study modern Arabic art. Twenty years ago, people would have said such a thing does not exist. Only recently is the search and desire for modern Middle Eastern art arising. Even so, only the most contemporary pieces are arousing interest, whereas the oxymoron of older modern art is still largely undiscovered by Western curators and art historians.
Though the reading did mention why Middle Eastern modern art is gaining influence and popularity, it failed to mention why it was not popular already. Was it simply that people were unaware of its existence? I don’t really know, but I think that’s probably it. When you think of “Middle Eastern art” you think of traditional things, like intricate weaving or beautiful architecture. It may just be in the general idea of the region that most people can’t imagine any type of modern art or abstraction from there.
The second reading covered the debate between what is acceptable modern art, and what is unacceptable. While this is a different take on “who creates modern art,” it is still connected to that central question. It seemed like Whistler’s art had less sense to it than Ruskin wanted, and Whistler was apparently overpricing his art because it didn’t take him long enough to create. I think both of their views are a little dumb, because the quality of art does not depend on how long it took to create, but also I’m not a big fan of modern artists who think like Whistler. He said he was asking for so much for his painting because the buyer would also be paying for “the knowledge of a lifetime.” The reading claimed that Ruskin believed in high modern art and Whistler better represented low modern art, but it seems to be like his way of thinking about it was more high-art.
Overall, these readings covered rather different topics, but they both discussed parameters of modern art. In the first one, interest was piqued, whereas in the second, I guess you could say it was both piqued and rejected. Whistler debatably began modern art, but it was received negatively. Both readings show that it took time for people to get used to the idea of modern art, whether it depended on where it came from or how long it took.
Kristin Hines - Student artist at Maggie L. Walker Governor's School