The Fate of Fine Art Too late to turn the clock back on fine art, Egregious oxymoron that it may Be called today, but where to find the start Of this, the slow beginnings of decay? For once we found our world inside the space That we saw bounded by a frame. The height Of charm resided in the commonplace Where now the commonplace is merely trite. And in that world we knew the things we felt, We recognised, the life we saw and thought We knew, the things we touched and heard and smelt And learned and read, the things that we’d been taught. And then it seems the Fauvist movement came Along, divorcing outline, colour, shade And form, each from the other. Should we blame Matisse, for one, the hotchpotch he portrayed? Technique and skill no longer score in art, Nor presentation. Concept counts for all. When craft in execution lost its part For art it proved the writing on the wall. Today’s great works of art are meant to shock, Are often vulgar, utterly debased, Designed to ape the loathsome, out to mock The twee and every benchmark of good taste. The more ephemeral a work of art, Like children’s castle carvings in wet sand, The greater chance that it will fall apart, The higher price it seems it will command. Artists today will brush aside our fears Of transience. They’ve no concern, at heart, For what effect will have the passing of the years On shoddy work and shoddy works of art. Long gone the days when artists would have ground And bound their own pigments, who had the sense To choose the methods that they found were sound While having due regard to permanence. No more can art astound us or confound Our visual acuity or raise Perceptions and our awe, where once we found That it would open up our eyes, amaze Us, make us look and look again in ways We couldn’t see till artists lent their sight To us and then on nature we would gaze Anew to see more clearly in the light. As poetry today must be opaque, Have scant regard for scansion, feet or rhyme, So too in art the rules that we can break Can only lead to anarchy in time. A bandwagon for those without restraint, A permit to create without constraint, A licence to bespatter, daub and taint Their canvases with cheap emulsion paint. Too late to rescue art from all the wrong Publicity it draws, the ridicule, Perplexity and disbelief along With scorn for what shows not a minuscule Amount of talent or ability. The cutting edge of art today is all About sensation and celebrity And arrogance, audacity and gall. It shows how far the talentless can stretch The boundaries of what they’re able to: Some wretch can spend five minutes on a sketch That ends up as a seminal breakthrough For vorticist post-futuristic art. An etching smaller than a postage stamp In fetching multi-squillions, apart From all the kudos for the little scamp, It gets his latest retrospective flown To all the seven continents and sent Off to the Venice Biennale, shown At every single pseudo-art event. Why paint a portrait of a man and try To catch his likeness if you can? Just do A daub with jumbo dung and let it dry, Entitle it “Untitled, Number Two.” If only artists could just stand apart From flagrant self-advertisement and hype And put more effort into so-called art They’d churn out ten times more appalling tripe. The Dark Ages What cultural wasteland could have produced The Book of Durrow and the Book of Kells, A barren tasteless age that introduced The Gothic with the greatest church at Wells. And dark their ages were but for their part They’d not the consummate effrontery To call a pile of bricks a work of art, To pickle sharks, make the discovery That hype and bluster and a name that sells Can turn the most outrageous bottled fart Into the most dramatic work of art. The Book of Durrow and the Book of Kells: Those humble scribes, their fame no-one proclaims: How could we, for they didn’t leave their names. Peter Hartley is a retired painting restorer. He was born in Liverpool and lives in Manchester, UK.