Lists About Art Taste Like Gummy Bears and Cure the Blues

by Reid Singer on November 4, 2011 Opinion

As of Wednesday, Howard Halle appears to have learned the straightest path to acquiring Internet buzz: make a list (preferably one that will piss a few people off). As of this writing, Time Out New York’s “Top 20 Paintings at MoMA” has garnered 73 comments, 247 Shares, and an earth-trembling 542 “Likes” on Facebook. Most of the comments are about items that should be on the list but aren’t, or vice versa, forcing us to ponder once again why Facebook doesn’t offer a “Dislike” feature comparable to the “Thumbs Down” icon seen on Youtube (“The world must know how I feel about Cookie Monster dancing to the theme from “Flashdance,” etc.).

And where does the frenetic fountain of comments come from? Lots of people seem happy to see Dalí’s “Persistence of Memory,” but wish Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” and some Pollocks had been in the mix. By this, I guess they mean that an ideal visit to the Museum of Modern Art should imitate a dorm room at a liberal arts college. Others have apparently never been to the MoMA and have no idea what kind of art belongs there, recommending Caravaggio and Predrag Pajdic (the former died in 1610, the latter has no major accolades, or a proprietary website).

To be fair, some people’s complaints are well-grounded. It’s hard to justify including works by Francis Picabia and James Ensor while excluding Miró or Monet, artists without whom no survey textbook is complete. With de Kooning and Newman already on the list, there might not be room for worthy Abstract Expressionists like Rothko or Hofmann, but I can relate to the people who would want them included (incidentally, Hans Hofmann and Hans Hoffmann will lead you down very different paths on Wikipedia).

The only offensive thing about Halle’s list is that it might give people the impression that they’ve actually learned something. I really hope commenters were being ironic when they applauded the “art history” lesson available from the slideshow captions; apparently some people can’t imagine how real art history might differ from a brief paragraph with some fun facts. This list is too brief, too arbitrary, and too thin to gather anyone’s attention for more than a few minutes. It is a tremendous success.

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