Art World FAQs # 2 – Bad Art

Stuff Sep 18, 2006 No Comments

What is ‘bad art’?

Bad art is literally art that is bad. Easy, you say, I know what bad is – but do you? There are eight identifiable types of bad art and it pays to know what’s what.

1. Competition Art. The most easily defined type of bad art, Competition Art is found in many different areas of the art world from humble shows in your local church hall right up to and including media saturated events such as the Archibald Portrait prize. Competition Art is easily spotted due to the artist’s complete lack of traditional skills like the ability to draw hands, master perspective or apply the paint. Typical examples of lower end Comp Art feature trad still-lifes, landscapes and horribly misjudged portraits. At the other end of the scale bad art is often veiled by the artist’s own celebrity, early career or better work, but even the so-called professionals turn out some horrible crap.

2. Café Moderne. Found in cafes and restaurants around the world, Café Moderne is produced by artists who went to art school but missed most of the classes. Although they’re trying, Café Modernists specialise in stylised self-portraits and pets and quote girly modernists like Marc Chagall and Henri Rosseau. Some reach a level of semi-respectability and perhaps even sell a bit of their work, but doomed forever to be seen over a foccacia and a soy latte Café Modernism can only ever hope to graduate Album Cover Art.

3. Tourist Art. This is a kind of art that is hard to spot since it fulfills most people’s expectations of what art is supposed to be. Almost always painting, occasionally sculpture, Tourist Art is big, bright often featuring landmarks, dolphins, penguins and turtles or, if it’s abstract, have titles like City At Night or Desert Moods. A semi-respectable recent development in TA is photographic panoramas of distant lands such as Tasmanian wilderness areas or retreating glaciers in Antarctica. This is a particularly pernicious form of badness since the art asks you to care about the worthy subject while disregarding the aesthetic paucity of the finished piece. Your guilt is meant to be assuaged by the high asking price as a token gesture of your commitment to saving wildernesses or halting global climate change. Highly expensive and soul destroying, Tourist Art is everywhere.

4. Street Art. This is a type of bad art where something that might look good on a wall ends up in a gallery – either a proper gallery with curators with delusions of cred or a gallery where the only work on display is by one artist who does everything from painting the pictures to taking out the garbage – and usually in the wrong order. The last decade has seen a rise in the number of artists who have moved from street to gallery but only the smart ones ditch the tagging for some painterly skills. Remember – just because it’s in a gallery doesn’t make it good.

5. Design Art
. Sneaky and pernicious, Design Art is perpetrated by designers and students with classy aesthetic taste and great visual skills. Often masquerading as “new forms” (installation, web design), you can recognise Design Art by its superior use of colour, form, composition and its total lack of ideas. It may be argued that the lack of ideas is the idea, or that looking good is as much a concept as tackling a subject, but if the artist spends their days designing letter heads and business cards for suits, you know where you are – in the land of Design Art.

6. Oh No, It Isn’t Art. Also known as Try Hard Art or I Can’t Believe [It’s Not Art,] this is a kind of art that looks good from far away or at a glance but when you get up close you suddenly realise the artist hasn’t got a clue. Closely aligned with Design Art, ONIIA is betrayed by its slightly crappy execution and lack of appealing features. Artists making this kind of bad art often exhibit where few artist dare to go – ‘exhibitions’ in bars and pubs, in bus shelters, one-day-only outings in the local hall and is sometimes spotted as décor in apartments in real estate guides.

7. Bad Good Art. This is a tricky form of bad art usually produced by well-known artists supported by popular acclaim but who are secretly shit. They have galleries, they have monographs, and they are included in major museum shows and are sold into corporate collections. But their work is still rubbish.

8. Good Bad Art. Produced by artists who know what they’re doing but are brave enough not to worry if people think they’re Bad, Good Bad Art is hard to spot but the giveaway is that the artist can actually draw.

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Andrew Frost

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