Last week I watched ‘The Saatchi Gallery 100’ – A hundred works of art that changed British Art in this post-modern era. A title such as this always intrigues me – each Christmas I am involuntarily beckoned into watching the 100 greatest adverts/comedy films/romantic moments on TV, because not only do I feed off recommendations, but I am to an extent obsessed with order, and with achievement. I want to be best, know what’s best, and be judged best at knowing what is in fact best – and this is what art critics essentially do, is it not? I recall also, solely for your humour, the time I reached back into my vague, and deep-set memories in order to record each and every film I’ve ever watched. Wonderfully anal I am.
Featured on The Saatchi Gallery’s 100 was The Hot 100 by Peter Davies – a list that is art. I don’t think I’ve heard of a more interesting topic explored in art, and that is this: Davies colourfully and ironically disorderly hand-wrote onto canvas the 100 greatest artists of all time, in order…according to him. We can not dismiss this work as menial, and rushed just because it’s not ‘a painting’; I know from experience that the making of this piece probably took as long as any said painting from a great master – in this way it is certainly well formed. Davies in becoming the critic. He is an artistic who is tactically considering his competition or, (if he doesn’t examine it as such,) reflecting on his inspiration; both so that he might achieve greater things, with this method of self-improvement.
Everyone wants to have his or her say on art. But more than a matter of freedom of speech – everyone wants his or her opinion to be right. This is the secret desire of Davies – at first just to contribute to the omnipresent discussion of which artists are best; but then he admitted that although his opinion does not matter, he secretly hoped/and does hope that people would/and will agree. The statement made in this artwork is epic– that his list is beautiful enough in content to be termed art, which of course only ensured more debate.
What is so interesting and relevant about the concept embodied in The Hot 100 is that it is simultaneously contemporary and age old. It’s the primeval dog-eat-dog, survival of the fittest, the popularity contest between Hera, Athena and Aphrodite known as The Judgement of Paris; X-factor etc etc. The need to achieve, or be best at something, is deeply rooted in our society. This is socially interesting therefore. It is our idiosyncratic capitalist culture. Why can’t there be many artists producing great work in order to satisfy our need to feel part of a class, in all cases a better class – a Capitalism idea again. It cannot be because the only art we pay attention to is that which is worthy – there can be no equality in art because it seems impossible for everything to be appreciated. Or, for someone to look at a piece of art, without deciding instinctively whether or not they have taste for it, and to relate it to something which is better or worse.
The subjectivity of opinion is highlighted perfectly in his spontaneous making into a series of Top 100s of artists. Davies said he quickly became annoyed by his choices and began to rewrite the once singular list, into numerous categorising lists such as The Hip 100, The Fun 100, The Cool 100, and The New Top 100, acknowledging that the History of Art is always changing due to additions made to it, and as taste with time is always changing. All art is liked first and later disliked. If an artist follows a popular taste, it will later be unpopular.
I love the idea that like an IPod, no one person’s selection of favourite art works will be the same. I don’t know why if we talk about an IPod of each person’s favourite artists it becomes so much more controversial. Well I do, it is the human need to be loved, or respected at least. Regardless it remains true that there will always be favourites, and it is no doubt because on most measures they are the best – the undiscovered are undiscovered for a reason – someone has found them, but that someone wanted to hide them again. By popularity, it has been chosen. If we were to do a survey, we would then find out (at this point of time, and in this taste of art) who the best artists are and in what sequence. Fact. And as Jonathon Jones said in his article In Art, Why is Popular a Dirty World “The artists I love best are precisely the ones everyone else loves. I’m drawn to the sense of community that truly universal artists create.”
So who wants to do a survey? I didn’t think so. So until then, let’s revel in the mysterious, in the joy of debate, and let’s see what you think about Davies’ authority on the matter…