I rather enjoy looking at things that please me aesthetically (tautologically), but I've got little interest in the pretensions of "modern art" and the society that prescribes it. The story of David Hensel and "Exhibit 1201" is illustrative.

In this year's summer show at London's Royal Academy of Arts, "Exhibit 1201" is a large rectangular tablet of slate with a tiny barbell-shaped bit of boxwood on top. Its creator, David Hensel, must be pleased to have been selected from among some 9,000 applicants for the world's largest open-submission exhibit of contemporary art. Nevertheless, he was bemused to discover that in transit his sculpture had gotten separated from its base. Judging the two components as different submissions, the Royal Academy had rejected his artwork proper--a finely wrought laughing head in jesmonite--and selected the plinth. "It says something about the state of visual arts today," said Mr. Hensel. He didn't say what. He didn't need to.

Moreover, the Royal Academy denies having made an error, for the plinth and hastily carved wooden support were, according to an official statement, "thought to have merit."

exhibit1201.jpg

It doesn't say much for the art world that its experts can't distinguish between art and utilitarian infrastructure. The cases of Banksy does New York and Banksy does Europe are also instructive.

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