But Is It Art ?

by Blake Robinson

April 7th, 2013    2 Comments     Add Comment
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I love taking pictures in museums. Faithful readers may recall a couple of earlier blog posts on The Museum of Modern Art in New York, or MoMA. You see them here and here. A few weeks ago, I went back to MoMA and pondered that age-old question, “Is It Art?”  For example, Is a helicopter suspended above a stairwell art?


Is a big canvas that’s mostly red, with a stripe here and there of something else, Is THAT art?


Are a couple of steel girders suspended from the ceiling, with wooden chairs, art? These people walking by don’t seem too impressed.


Monet’s Water Lillies? – Yes, now that is art!


Richard Serra does interesting sculpture with sheet metal, usually large curving forms. Here, he just has one slab on the floor and another on the ceiling. Well, you can walk on the floor piece, anyway. I was not as brave as the couple pictured here – I didn’t want to walk under a piece of metal weighing several tons attached – how? –  to the ceiling. Serra is known as a minimalist sculptor. That part I get.


Is Tilda Swinton nappingTilda napping in a glass box art? This is not my photo. The guard said, “No Pictures!” so I obeyed, only to find hundreds of images of Tilda online that night.

Before you decide whether Tilda is art or not, you can read the label for her, which appears to the right, below.

As shown, the title is “The Maybe.” What does that mean? Maybe she’s asleep or maybe she’s just pretending. Maybe she’s doing this, as some art bloggers suggested, for publicity or in hopes of getting cast in a new move. Maybe it’s all a joke. Or maybe it really is art.


I have to say, of all the “art” I saw on this busy Saturday afternoon at MoMA, that Tilda was the most intriguing. She got me thinking about what art is or could be. I suppose if our mind is engaged in trying to figure out the meaning of what we are looking at – perhaps that is enough.

Let me know what you think about all of this.

But one last question –  two vacuum cleaners, each lit from below by a row of fluorescent lights – Is THIS art?



Working both in the studio and on location, photographer Blake Robinson serves the Connecticut communities of Darien, New Canaan, Stamford, Norwalk, Westport and Greenwich.




2 Responses

  1. Maira says:

    Hi Blake,
    I’m going to say, without hesitation, that the red canvas is not art.
    Come on??

  2. Kip Hewitt says:


    Thanks for sharing the pictures.

    I’m bored and uninterested in work by artists in which I cannot find a pattern or an insight beyond the obvious. If by looking at something for an extended period of time (in the case of art that is visual) and seeing something the artist has done, which I would not have seen in a quick glance, then the artist has not shared a pattern or perception that would not have been obvious without the the artist. I like art that allows me to perceive or notice something the artist has seen or created and which is not immediately obvious to me.

    With respect to the helicopter, in my view, there is a difference between design and art. Design applies art to a practical, functional object. But art doesn’t need a practical function.

    Is a pile of garbage art? Not to me. It’s not a shared insight or experience between the artist and me, which I would not have had without the artist. I might stare at it and think for a moment. But it doesn’t give me any sense of the artist’s insight or a recognition of a visual pattern that the artist has seen and shared with me.

    If an artist makes a flat iron slab of iron on the floor, maybe there is something perceptive in the texture or the color, the change in the light, etc. that is worthy of being called art, but if the artists simply juxtaposed two or more objects I have not seen together and the pattern or perception is so simple they have not shared an insight I cannot see or would not have found by staring at a natural object, then the artist has done nothing. Instead, the artist has insulted me by claiming to give me something, when in fact, they gave me nothing, or claiming that they caused me to think or feel something — when it is I (not the artist or the object) that is thinking and feeling (which I can just as easily do by looking at my hand.

    If art has meaning, the meaning is what I associate or derive from it. But the art has no meaning. The meaning is in the beholder, and the shared experience or perception of the artist.

    Kip Hewitt


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