Though I am perhaps overanalyzing the current situation, I can’t help but think that Hegelian structures characterize the auction for Charlie’s painting that will be held this Friday.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
According to Hegel, the world trundles along as a result of two opposing forces, a thesis and an antithesis, which yield to a third structure, a synthesis. The synthesis, Hegel claimed, resolves the inner conflict of the thesis and antithesis and in so doing exists on a higher more advanced plane than them.
With respect to the forthcoming auction, there is on the one hand a thesis: aesthetic value. What an incredibly rarefied thing. It really is hard to say what it is, so hard in fact that many philosophers have even denied its existence.
Nonetheless, despite aesthetic value’s elusive nature, one thing is certain -- art in all its forms has the ability to move people to profound almost mystical states of reverie. Beethoven’s 9th, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Van Gogh’s Starry Night: Who can fail to be moved by the profundity they contain?
Then there is the antithesis: homelessness. It is not rarefied; it does not move people to states of reverie; and it certainly is not among humanity’s greatest achievements. Indeed, quite the opposite. Homelessness is not only utterly concrete, but it represents one of the great failings of contemporary society, a failing that should move people not to states of reverie but to states of anger at the causes of it and to a firm resolve to eliminate it.
Art and homelessness: what a peculiar and fascinating combination of opposing forces. I must admit that when I started this project, the significance of such a combination never occurred to me. But now, through a series of seemingly random accidents, I have been introduced to an organization that is devoted to synthesizing those two forces: ArtWorks945.
ArtWorks945 is an art gallery for the homeless: a place where people who have been marginalized by the cold machinations of the American economic system can go to express themselves through paint. What a brilliant organization. What a brilliant synthesis of a thesis and an antithesis.
But that is not all.
In addition to ArtWorks945, there is another Hegelian synthesis to be had.
As those who have been following this blog know, I was introduced to ArtWorks945 as a result of coming into possession of one of the most intriguing pieces of art in the world – Charlie Spear’s Falling Down Man: a representation of a homeless person that was accidentally damaged and thereby improved by the United States Postal Service.
Charlie’s painting now contains a thesis and an antithesis. The thesis: a beautiful, moving and inspired painting. The antithesis: accidental damage.
I have repeatedly made the claim that this particular thesis and antithesis have been synthesized into a painting that is quite literally one of a kind: Charlie’s painting is one of the purest instances in the world of the category – painting that is accidentally damaged but thereby improved.
Of course, it is one thing for me to make such a claim and quite another for the market to respond to it.
So what is Falling Down Man’s economic value? How will the market respond to the synthesis of aesthetic value and damage?
I don’t know. But I can’t wait to find out.
The auction is this Friday at the Summit Coffee Shop, from 8 - 10.
Somehow, I think the Universe will be there. I hope others are too.