Damon Ginandes

I had a bit of an argument with a friend the other night on the subject of declining standards in the arts. He maintained that standards were all subjective, and I loudly argued they were not.

Here’s a little quote from an article I found on the subject:

“The difference is not only a matter of artistic skill, but of intent. Although the Moses and David are period pieces, they are timeless, universal, noble. They were intended to be – and they are – supreme. The others fall considerably short of that measure because they are designed for lesser reasons: the ceramic princesses and companions for commercial appeal to cheap sentiment, the floor puzzles for appeal to false sentiment – that is, worship of the avant-garde for its own sake as chic.

These examples represent the posing of extremes in which quality versus nonquality is unmistakable. If I come closer, however, and suggest that quality is inherent in, let us say, the stark, exquisite fiction of Jean Rhys but not in ”Princess Daisy,” in New England’s white-steepled churches but not in Howard Johnson’s orangeroofed eateries, in the film ”Ninotchka” but not in ”Star Wars,” in Fred Astaire but not in Johnny Carson, I shall be pelted with accusations of failure to understand that what was once considered quality has given way under a change of social values to appreciation of new qualities and new values; that the admirers of the ceramic dolls and trash fiction and plastic furniture and television talk and entertainment shows with their idiotic laughter find something in these objects and diversions that means quality to them – in short, that quality is subjective. Yes, indeed, just as there are men who believe and loudly insist they are sober and who stumble and weave and pass out five minutes later. The judgment is subjective but the condition is not.” – Barbara W. Tuchman, New York Times, Nov. 8, 1980

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