Art?

Tate Modern[1]
I came across this stark, provocative reference in the latest issue of First Things.

Paul Johnson, author of Art: A New History had this to say in The New Criterion:

“Nor do I believe that art can flourish for long without a spiritual element.

I grieve over what happened to painting in the twentieth century, vitiated by a kind of barbarism not unlike the actions of government which cost the lives of scores of millions. When I visit galleries today, I long for the fifteenth century with its tender Madonnas and the outstretched arms of the infant Jesus on their knees, and even the paintings of the martyrs in woeful suffering have a purpose missing from the pointless images of violence now cast up, or the descent into depths deeper than any Hell of Hieronymus Bosch.

I recall attending the opening of Tate Modern. I found a room there empty except for a large video screen and three children, a girl of about ten and her younger brother and sister. They were sampling modern art—a video of a man masturbating. That this kind of episode was no accident I deduce from the latest obiter dicta of Charles Saatchi, said to exercise enormous power over our art: ‘I know I sound like some ghastly creep, but there is something enchanting about seeing children sitting around a Chapman brothers piece showing penises coming out of girls’ eyes, and drawing it neatly to take back to their teacher.”


While all modern art is certainly not of this ilk, these observations are all too accurate of a culture in the West that has increasingly lost its way and a milieu into which the Christian movement struggles to speak with living, relevant power.

3 Responses to “Art?”

  1. jamie Says:

    Maybe on your next visit to AZ to visit, I can show you what my friend and I are trying to start with the arts…

  2. Sam Robinson Says:

    I would like to hear more about reaching the World through the arts.

  3. Jon Hall Says:

    The freedom of expression carries good and bad, it seems. Sans the Chapman brothers piece, I am greatly encouraged in much of what I see happening in art these days. Most encouraging (and exciting) to me, are the explosive things happening in the world of street art. Innovative artists all over the world (and yes, even here in the states, almost exclusively in urban settings) are pushing the envelope, creating art that matters, art that challenges and engages.

    One of the things I love most about the street art movement though, is it’s venue. The street. These rebellious artists have recognized how art had been lost in our culture (and in the venue of the museum and gallery), and seek to recapture it, by bringing it to the people, to the streets.

    It almost seems… missional. In the same way I see a handful of innovative Christ-followers seeking to live incarnationally, among the people (instead of just inside the walls of a church), stret art seeks to bring it’s message to where the people are.

    I sense we’re seeing only the beginning of a powerful, exciting medium. I wonder how the church can learn from this?

Leave a Reply