Why these all-white paintings are in museums and mine aren’t


It’s almost kind of like a blank canvas
with some, like some texture. I do see a white dot there but I don’t know
if that’s supposed to be there. It looks like something I would cook on,
like a baking sheet. Could be a lot of flies stuck to
a bit of paper. Yeah, ’cause I would put this down on my
floor, my floor tiles. These people are describing Robert Ryman’s
painting “Bridge.” It sold for $20.6 million at a Christie’s
auction in 2015. How is an all-white painting considered art, and why would anyone shell out millions for
something like this? There are a lot of these “white paintings.” Many people trace them back to Kazimir Malevich’s
1918 work “White on White.” But there are many artists who created these
kinds of paintings: Most of these artists were associated with
an art movement called minimalism, which emerged in the late
1950s. When I say the minimalists I mean minimalism
with a capital M, not a lowercase. This is Elisabeth Sherman, she’s an assistant
curator at the Whitney Museum in New York. It’s tempting to look at one of these paintings
and think that some jerk just took a tube of white paint and spread it on a canvas — but it’s not actually that easy. I mean mine rules, obviously, because I’m
a f****** genius, but there’s usually a lot more than meets the
eye. White isn’t really a pure thing. White is
always tinted in some way. Paint is made up of a variety of pigments. If you’ve ever painted the walls of your house,
you know how many different whites there are to choose from. And maybe if you only look at one it looks
like pure white, but when you hold them up in an array you
can see the subtle differences. It’s blue, it’s green, it’s purple, it’s warm,
it’s cold. And when you get close— HEY! Not too close, there’s a lot going on here. Lines, texture, patterns, even color. There are a lot of subtle intricacies that
make it more than “just a white canvas.” Minimalist artists wanted their work to embody
order, simplicity, and harmony. These artists began with these ideas as a
rejection of abstract expressionism. Abstract expressionism was a movement of artists
in the 1940s and 50s who thought that art should be gestural, expressive,
and emotional, evoking the unconscious mind through movement
and color. So if we think about Jackson Pollock as being
kind of the abstract expressionist that many people
think of, you can take that picture of him with the
canvas on the floor of his studio spilling paints everywhere, and it’s his gesture, it’s his physical body,
it’s his arm, it’s who he is as a person that’s creating that canvas, that painting. Minimalists weren’t about that. All that paint splashing everywhere? No thanks. There was a lot of desire to get away from
that sensibility where the individual’s expression was put
into the canvas. The idea was that the art object — be it
sculpture or painting or installation — should kind of be as far removed from the author as possible. You can see what she means when you compare
the two schools of art. Okay, you get it. Minimalist artists stripped art of the burden
of being about “something else.” They presented art not as an imitation of
reality but as an object unto itself. Artist Frank Stella summed it up nicely when
he said, One of my favorite things about modern art
is the rage that it seems to provoke in some people. Cue videos of men freaking out: I’m not gonna sit there and try to find
a meaning in a red circle on a blank white canvas, ’cause I’m not gonna find any meaning. I may not understand art
but I do understand the English language, and that’s pretentious nonsense. Did you see the painting that was just a white
painting that had nothing on it? It’s like super pretentious meets uber pretentious. Modern art sets. people. off. And believe me when I say that I am here for
it. But with modern art, by definition every interpretation
is genuine and legitimate and okay. Or not, how about not? I love it. There’s even an entire play about a group
of lifelong friends who are torn apart when one of them buys an all-white painting for $200,000. With a very kind of absent blank painting
you have to do a lot more work in some ways than maybe you have to do with, let’s say,
pop art that has tons of obvious references and you see the Coca-Cola or the American
flag and you can say, I have all of these relationships with these objects with these brands with
these things. When you’re looking at simply a square of
white paint, you have to do a lot more work, but sometimes there maybe is something more
rewarding in the end. Another common reaction to modern art, specifically minimalist pieces like white
paintings is, c’mon, say it with me now, Almost no matter what show I’ve worked on
in my career somebody has said that. While there is a lot of skill in a lot of
modern and contemporary art there’s also a lot of art that is more about
the idea than it is about skill. And so yes you could do it but you didn’t. Damn Elisabeth. And that may sound obnoxious or flip but the reality is is that once art begins
to live just as much in the mind as it does in the eye you have to bring your ideas
as well as your physical construction of the work. White paintings are a fascinating kind of
Rorschach test. They offer viewers an ambiguous, I’m so
sorry, but, canvas to project their own interpretations, emotions,
beliefs, and stories onto. So if looking at a white painting makes you
feel angry or excited or soothed, those are all
valid responses. But take a moment to think about why that
was your response. It’s very easy to be dismissive of things
that we’re not immediately attracted to. So if you have a kind of negative gut reaction,
one of defensiveness or fear or anxiety or rejection maybe try to move past that and see what’s
available afterwards. And it doesn’t have to change your mind, but it’s sometimes the process of working
through that reaction that you learn the most about
the work but also about yourself.

100 comments

Also make sure to check out the other Vox video about what the formula is for selling a million-dollar work of art https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCT-UL2M8Gc

i think this type of art is more about the name of the artist
than the arts itself.
tbh i think arts suppose to speak for itself.
you are not suppose to know the name of the painter to know now thats a great piece of work.

Looking at a white painting is very SOOTHING
finding out it sold for millions I become ANGRY
And then knowing I can make easy money become EXCITED

The truth is , all about statement who can afford or bid higher. The artist might thing they are very special, but for those who bought is all about statement, ill do the same if i can bid that high.

Point is not that it is just white, but how it was painted white. This is not story of color or shape. It's story of texture. Yes, you can put paint on canvas. But will you get that specific texture? That specific shade? Microtonal shifts? And then, sometimes what is around is what is about. It's non-art. It can exist only in relationship to everything else. Same as John Cage's 4'33 – not fact that musicians don't play is important but act of enjoing silence. It's comentary. World now is too loud, too colorful. We need this plain empty square and this few moments of silence. Just to stop and be. Without big stories, loud sounds, shapes and colours. It's almost buddhist nirvana. Going into nothingnness, that purificate us and bring us back to sanity. Because we all need it.

I love minimalistic art
But a nearly blank canvas is just… boring. Like yeah white can be beaufitul, even on a canvas, but I could also stare at my walls and it would be the same for me.

I really enjoyed watching Vox videos until all the ‘mansplaining’ and ‘men freaking out’ bombs were dropped.

funny, how all the comments I see that get liked a lot are making exactly the point: these pieces do something to the authors of the comments. they provoke a strong reaction.
That doesn't mean it's art. But if it is, it is doing good!

unpopular opinion: basically all art is way overpriced because it's used for money laundering. An all-white painting selling for $20m should only make people more suspicious.

You can understand why the original handwritten American Pie lyrics cost $1.2m or why a rare Jane Austen manuscript sells for $1.6m. These things have far more value in terms of culture, content, public value and appreciation.

I just created a genius piece, it's called 'now there'. It's a non-material art which is a square, anywhere. Look around you, there it is.

It'S GenIuS bEcAuSe yOu DiNt Do iT

Its like in any business. You have someone who creates a product through years of experience and dedication, and then you have a salemanager to sell the product. Problem occurs when the salemanager creates his/her own product and pitch it as a creative product. Its a scam. Welcome to the 21th century.

sorry but this is missing the main reason why are SO outraged by modern art: because the doller value assigned to these paintings is no where near reflecting even a 1/10th of genuine worth. Like the point that a white picture is basically a mirror for everyone to see or feel what they want, ok thats nice- its not 20 MILLION nice. Just because someone would pay it doesnt mean it SHOULD be. Theres a reason why GREAT works of art like Dali or Picasso are worth what they are worth, because they are so much more than just that painting but the whole philosophy behind them that actually reflected and impacted the world. The white paintings are not making strong relevant points. There is genuinely good modern art that makes strong relevant points. Ive never seen those valued at 20 million because a huge part of the art world is the PR aspect of it. That makes modern art much less valuable because the art just becomes a commodity in a hypercapitalist economy. Fetishized but losing its genuine added value of ART.

nice , have to pretend mental illnesses are genders, now have to pretend just some meaningless colors and shapes are "art" what a world

No you could'nt do it. You would need to have gone to the right school, have the right supporters etc. then you could do it.

it's still art… but most of the fame is because of the people the artist knew and networked with. that's just how the art world works. you can be a talented artist, but if you don't show people your work and get your name out there: it isn't going to do you any good.

After calm, careful, considerate, reasonable, and logical consideration I find that this kind of "art" fails to meet the definition of art and therefore should not be considered art. It is a scam. Oh, I hear Nigeria and India calling. They say they have a bunch of this to sell me. Should I buy it?

Yeah ok, so if I just plop some white paint on a canvas and say it has some deep personal meaning someone’s gonna buy it for 20 million dolllars

It’s hilarious how she’s trying to come up with an excuse for why someone bought a blank canvas for 20 million.

I don’t care about whatever people say, it’s not art. It’s not art.
I love modern and contemporary art but every time I find myself in front of these pieces I just walk straight.
I refuse

i can do it but didn't do it? ok i'm going to the arts and crafts store to buy a canvas and white paint and i will sell it for 50 million 🙂

I love modern art and conceptual art, I think it gets a bad rap but once someone learns the meaning instead of just the appearance then you can appreciate it a ton 🙂

people all the time call minimalist art pretentious (it can be of course) but then go and get so so fired up about it saying its not REAL art like. bro do you not realize you are the one being pretentious

Years of western perfectionism all ruined, but remember every time you spend money, you vote what you want to see.

I think the people trashing modern art seem to confuse 'Modern Art' from 'Contemporary Art'. Just my own opinion

I've seen some beautiful minimalist art that had incredible cultural nuances. I remember one which was inspired by Japanese architecture. I saw it years ago when i was a teenager and have never forgotten it.

Or the Famous Artist in 2020-2021 that Paints his Canvas' with His face & price is Connected to Time called Timer art. ( Joseph Charles Colin 2019 & yes it is True )

Modern art starts making sense the moment you stop thinking of it as that which it pretends to be (art) and thinks of it as what it is (luxury good). The speech that woman is delivering is actually what the millionaire pays for: the brand experience of feeling unique, eccentric, unsettling to the rest of the society he lives in. The moment that kind of art becomes commonplace, it loses its differential status and the fad is gone, only so another one can emerge.

I'm going to open an online shop to sell a variety of things. When people order something I will send them nothing. If they become angry I will tell them to try to move past that.

Wow these comments have the combined intelligence of 1 brain cell and some extra pair of chromosomes
I guarantee most of these people haven't been in an art museum in their life

I love abstract expressionism because even when it doesn´t portrait a certain reality why does it have to? the artist is still there and it can move you, but this minimalist idea of dettaching the artist from his/her work just doesn´t make sense as art to me, maybe it´s closer to design and that´s not bad at all…well, the fact that people pay millions for it while there´s so much suffering in the world angers me, to be honest.

Why are you trying to convince me that if white is tinted, that it's more art than with regular white? It's still something overpriced because somebody said so, or washed money with it. I know for a fact that anything could be art, but not everything should be considered as art.

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