I came across this Andy Warhol statement the other day and have been niggling at it ever since. ‘An artist is a person who produces something we don’t need to have.’
The thing is, all I know about Warhol has been picked up incidentally, because I’ve seen dramas where he was either a main or secondary character. This means my version of him has been created from a series of fictions, plus my scanty knowledge of his most famous pictures, and I can’t work him out. Maybe I don’t need to.
Perhaps all I need to do is decide how I feel about his pictures. Except he said we don’t need to have them – any of them. Maybe that was a joke. How else do you explain a man who made a great deal of money from his art, and influenced a huge number of people in more than one branch of artistry, saying we don’t need to have it?
If we don’t need to have art, in any form, why do we seek it out? According to Aristotle, I read the same seven stories, over and over. I can’t quarrel with that.
I’m frequently aware that I’m reading yet another re-working of Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella or some other archetypal narrative. Sometimes the stories are barely disguised. Still, I read them, even re-read them. I truly believe that I need them. What would I do if they didn’t exist? Perhaps I’d invent a story. If I didn’t, I’m sure someone else would.
Most of us like things we don’t need to have. Once we’ve accumulated all the goods we need, we don’t usually stop acquiring. I’ve met several minimalists, and what I’ve wondered about hasn’t been their abstinence, rather it’s their ability to discard.
Had you asked me to guess where that quote came from, my first suggestion would have been Groucho Marx. Except Groucho would surely have capped it off with a neat piece of lateral observation. Maybe that’s what I need for this, some kind of conclusion, and really who better to find the kind of sense I best understand, than Groucho?
Well Art is Art, isn’t it? Still on the other hand east is east and west is west, and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now tell me what you know.