Today, in the New York Times, there was an article about an economist who has reordered the canon of art history by using market statistics and counts of the appearance of works in standard texts. After his quantitative ranking is done, what will know about art? That is, will it deepen or alter our appreciation of the works? I think not, though it may have some interest as cultural history. As Arthur Danto pointed out succinctly,
“I don’t see the method as anything except circular. The frequency of an illustration doesn’t seem to me to really explain what makes an idea good.
“Somewhere along the line you’ve got to find answers to why it’s so interesting.”
If you’re interested in art, that is…
Unmentioned in this article, is the fact that it seems to reverse Marx’s comment on history playing out twice: first as tragedy, then as farce. This economist is engaging in a travesty of thought, a tragedy of …well, maybe it’s just farce all around, but the farce certainly came before him. Has he not heard of Komar & Melamid? These two tricksters did extensive polling – market research – to discover what art people want and then they gave it to them! That’s art by the numbers!!