Thoughts on thoughts and images of beautiful things

Monthly Archives: October 2013

What makes art valuable?


“Unlike art, Newsom said, ‘design is not inherently valuable.'”- Designing Men by Paul Goldberger, Vanity Fair 

This quote brought me back to a Philosophy of Art class I took in college. So if design is not inherently valuable, then art is? And what is it that makes art inherently valuable if that is the case? It’s a difficult question with no clear answer, but it is very interesting. How does art gain its value? Does it depend on the artist? And how does that artist gain enough notoriety or credibility to create ‘valuable’ artwork? Or does it depend on its reception and how many people see it? But how does an emerging artist break into the art world and gain exposure? All these questions lead to a very complicated structure that exists in the art world, whether the art is mainstream or unrecognized, and it can be difficult to know where and how to start answering these questions.

What really strikes me is how artists gain notoriety. How do they get discovered? Does it require money to pay someone to show your art in a fancy gallery regardless of talent? Or can regular people submit their art to galleries and be accepted based on merit and talent? That would certainly be the hope, but it seems increasingly harder to do that in this day and age.

Here are two works by a famous artist, Egon Schiele. I like them, but someone else who may not like his style may not like them at all. Either way, he is an established, well-known artist. I not only like them aesthetically, but I also like them knowing the historical and cultural context they come from – early 20th century Vienna. It helps that he had a famous artist as a mentor, Gustav Klimt, which undoubtedly propelled his career forward. So perhaps this is the way to do it…seek out a mentor who has relative notoriety and learn what you can from him/her in the hopes of it leading somewhere.

imagesSelf-Portrait by Egon Schiele.jpg

So what makes these two works valuable? The fact that they were done by a famous artist? Or would they be valuable in their own right because of their aesthetic quality even if you didn’t know who they were done by? Which brings up another question – when you look at a piece of art, can you tell whether or not it was made by a famous artist? I think we instinctively want to know who the artist behind the work is when we look at art, or at least I do, and if you are the least bit educated in art history you will know whether or not they are well-known. Therefore, I don’t know if it is possible to look at a serious work of art and separate it from the artist. And if we can’t separate the work from the artist, how do we know we like the work for the sake of the work itself or because of the artist who made it? For me the two go hand in hand. It is very hard to separate the two. But often there are works by artists that I don’t like even though I may like the artist as a whole. For example, Egon Shciele – I like him as an artist and I like many of his works, but not all of them. So in these cases, when I like the artist on the whole but not a particular work by that artist, I judge the work for the work itself and not for the artist. If one liked every work by a particular artist, one would be judging the work by the artist and not by the individual works. I don’t think there is one approach to evaluating art that is better than the other, they are just different.

But still, regardless of how one evaluates art, how does art become valuable? It seems strange to place a price tag on a work of art because it is hard to assign a value to it in terms of weighing how much the materials cost, how much the labor is worth, and what the desired profit is. It’s not like an object made in a factory that can be priced in this way. There is something about art that is transcendental by which it acquires value. And it is precisely for this reason that the price of art is typically very high – because its value is so hard to define so it is just easier if we give it a high price tag. It is a shame though because this means that it is really only available (to own at least) for the rich. Those who can’t afford to own a nice work of art can still appreciate it in a museum or gallery, but the ownership of art is a luxury for the wealthy. I tend to think that even if you own a work of art, you don’t really own it, but are rather just taking care of it and keeping it safe for the artist who created it, who I believe still ‘owns’ it. It is one thing to buy a work of art and own it in that sense, but I don’t think that means you really own because you didn’t create it. I believe the ownership lies in the creator, even if it is no longer in the creator’s physical possession.

In an attempt to help my artist boyfriend gain exposure, I am going to present some of his art here. How do you think it compares to Egon Schiele? If you didn’t know that it wasn’t made by Egon Schiele, would you think that it possibly could be? Or Van Gogh maybe?


photo 1

The way that artists draw inspiration from other artists and tend to imitate their style is quite common,  you can still tell that they are done by different artists. Artists can draw upon inspiration from other artists while still creating their own style.


 It’s a shame that some artists, or perhaps even most artists, only gain notoriety after their death because they don’t get the chance to revel in it  or reap the financial rewards of being a well-known artist. Why is it that many artists  only become famous after their death? Is there something about the fact  that they’re no longer living that their work becomes almost sacred  because you know they can’t make any more of it? It’s a strange thing and  there is something that just doesn’t seem quite right about it.  Artists should  be able to experience their own notoriety and know that their art is appreciated by people.

More about Egon Schiele and his work on Artsy.

Living in my grandparents’ house


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I recently moved for a new job, which is conveniently located where my grandparents live, and while they do not live at home but in a nursing home, I am living in their house. Living in someone else’s house can be strange, especially when it’s still full of all their things. However, when it’s someone you know or are close to, it’s not quite as strange. In fact, I am rather enjoying living in my grandparents’ house.  Of course, I am lucky because they have a rather nice house. It’s full of art, books, records, Scandinavian furniture, culture, and history. I can feel the culture and history because I know about my grandparents’ past, but to a guest who might not know about my grandparents’ past, the culture and history might not be as obvious. My grandparents are immigrants from Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) and they escaped when the Russians invaded. Their story is very interesting to me because I can’t imagine going through what they had to go through…having things like their homes taken away from them, their rights to do certain things, and ultimately leaving their families behind to have a better life elsewhere. So with these things in mind, I look around the house and take in all the history and culture as much as I can. There is something that feels very foreign about the house, but in a good way. It transports me to a different time and place that is unknown to me, but no less interesting.

Rash judgment


We all think we’re open-minded until we come across something that we form an opinion about, or realize that we’ve held that opinion for quite some time without realizing it, and then all of a sudden we don’t feel so open-minded. We feel rather close-minded and judgmental. This has recently been occurring to me as I think about different things and almost unconsciously make a judgment about them without really thinking about them. It is somewhat bothersome to me, but at the same time, I don’t altogether disagree with the rash judgments I make because it must be how I feel instinctively and there is nothing wrong with how we really feel, even if we don’t like it sometimes. It’ just how we feel and we have to be true to that and not judge our judgements. Or should we?




Establishing a place and identity has been difficult for me since I was born in Italy, lived there for 8 years, and then moved to the United States where I have spent last 14 years of my life. Wow, that’s a long time. I don’t like counting how long it’s been since we left Italy, so I often lose track of how long it’s actually been. But I’ve always had this conflict within me of not really knowing where I belonged. It hash’t been overwhelming to the point where I feel completely lost, but rather just indifferent to both Italy and the U.S. Despite being an American citizen and living in the U.S. for most of my life, I do not feel very American and certainly don’t feel patriotic in the least. At the same time, I can’t say that I feel very Italian either. I was born there and spent those early formative years of my life there, but I am not ethnically Italian, and therefore, was more like an outsider living in Italy. Of course, the Italian people are very warm and embracing, so we didn’t feel like intruders or out of place. I am extremely grateful for my childhood in Italy, as I realize this is an opportunity that not many American children have. I have the fondest of memories of my birthplace and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.



That being said, my love for Europe and desire to go back exceeds my interest, or lack thereof, to remain in the U.S. and build a life here. But then again, my family is here in the U.S. and going to Europe on business seems challenging for non-EU citizens. So I suppose it will continue to be a conflict, but will hopefully be resolved at some point in my life, if I’m lucky.

Our place in societal roles, influenced by Downton Abbey


It’s hard to know what to value in life and how to feel about societal roles when we’re in between a proper, aristocratic mindset and have taken on a more modern, liberal and informal attitude toward things. Perhaps we are no longer in between the two, but rather pretty far into the modern mindset. But as I like to think of the past, I do still care about propriety.


I was reminded of this recently when I was watching the third season of Downton Abbey, which takes place in the early 1920s when things are shifting away from the older aristocratic ways to a more open-minded attitude. Various people in the family have differing opinions – some clinging onto propriety, others (women especially) breaking out of the traditional roles in the home, and others still being pushed in one direction or the other by fellow family members (whether or not they agree is another question).

So as I watch Downton Abbey and observe how each character approaches what is proper and what isn’t, what is acceptable and what isn’t for a person of their stature, and how they find their place in the changing world around them, I think about my own attitudes towards important things that define our lives and the way we value things like money, education, family, manners, etc. I like to think that these things are still important, despite the shift for a more relaxed attitude towards life. I certainly embrace the positive advances we’ve made, particularly when it comes to the advancement of women, but holding onto a little bit of the past and what was valued in the past, such as Downton Abbey’s setting, I like to think that there are still some things which hold a certain amount of importance, like manners and cordiality, that we should not criticize. People may think of this stance as snobbish and elitist, but I don’t think it is. I think it is merely valuing the basic, important things in life that make us dignified people and there is nothing wrong with that.

Life transitions


I recently made a big life transition – I moved away from home and started my first serious post-college job. Having graduated from college a year ago, I spent my first year out of college working a couple of part-time jobs that I wasn’t particularly fond of. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t like them, they just weren’t what I thought I would be doing after college. Getting your first ‘real job’ after college is exciting, but also scary. I was definitely scared/worried/nervous about moving far away from home, living by myself, and not knowing anyone in the town I was relocating to. But, as everyone does, I knew I needed to get away from home, gain independence, experience a new kind of environment, and do some soul-searching (i.e. figure out what I want to do with my life).

So, the transition has actually gone really smoothly. I love my new town and my new job (well, more so than what I was doing before anyway), and am actually enjoying the time spent alone. It can be scary and certainly sad and lonely, but only if you let it be that way. Spending time alone can be a great opportunity to think about your life, explore different things, and do things that you wouldn’t otherwise have time to do like read, watch movies/shows, exercise, go out and explore, work on projects, etc.

Taking that big first step is difficult and scary but, for me at least, it has been well-worth it.

My lovely  new home