What is art? That was the theme of Sunday’s New York Times crossword, which I finished in (for me) average time. It was titled “You’ll Know It When You See It.” I kept wondering if the creator had been inspired by Tilda Swinton.
Swinton, you’ve probably heard, has since Saturday been periodically napping in a glass box at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Of all the stories appearing in the Times over the past week, I don’t think many have gotten the same kind of public response. People may not know exactly what art is, but they damned sure know what it isn’t.
Me, I’ve seen a lot of weird things at MOMA, and the Guggenheim, and I just shrug at this kind of thing. I’m quite the sophisticate. I’m not one of those guys who looks at an abstract painting and says, “my kid could do that” — even if I’ve thought it more than once. My theory on art is this: If it evokes a feeling of some sort, even disgust, then you can call it art if you want to. Ditto if it’s a famous actress who is likely to draw crowds doing something everybody on the planet can do.
I do think the glass box should have holes in it so spectators could occasionally prod her with sticks. A fake-sleeping Swinton is one thing; a genuinely pissed-off one would be worth the price of admission.