Appreciation for the arts has varied with time and with taste. For the nonce, arts of many kinds are in vogue — and we are surrounded by art, fashion, taste, vogue, music, and design of all manner. At a time when many believe that we do not have enough arts in schools because we are supposedly teaching to tests, and in a time when many decry funding for the arts, the fact of the matter is that humanity at all class levels have never been so aware of art in the entire history of humanity. This is not entirely due to technology, as it owes in part to the monopoly profits of strong intellectual property laws, but it is a fact.

So we have a tremendous amount of art in our lives. Humans have to use language to discuss art, and it’s too easy to employ hierarchies, ordering, and different degrees of adjectives to art. Some believe that, depending on our language, we are hard-wired to do so. In any event, one might wonder if, absent commentary and criticism, we might think that all art is equal — or given a certain specialty, perhaps *more* of it might be equal. (In the market, one might speculate this already occurs due to the primacy of goodwill value in the art, i.e. the value of a name.)

I read some interesting commentary on this subject and it’s hard to come by. In a lengthy NYT bio of legendary pianist and Texan Van Cliburn, there’s some debate over the merit of piano competitions. How do judges decide, after all? It’s similar to many types of art competitions in that the dilemma is what categories do you select for judging and how do you pick which is better in any given category? How does one grade feeling in piano performance? Is it easy for the judges to  be biased? All these and many more questions challenge the convention of judging in art for the sake of competition. Van Cliburn himself has never been a judge, and never wants to be. He explains:

“I couldn’t do it,” he said. “I’ve never been on a jury. It would be the hardest thing ever for me to do. I’m too understanding of why a person did a passage this way instead of that way.”

Could this be a paradigm for future aesthetic appreciation competitions? Or discussions?  [Apologies for errors, brevity, and lack of coherent thought as I typed this at 0330….]

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