I think we are loosing beauty, and there is a danger that with it, we will loose the meaning of life.
In this post I will present you for Roger Scruton’s view on beauty. It is not because I agree with what he says, but because he is one of relative few – from inside the intellectual-establishment – daring to advocate a fundamental critique of contemporary art.
You can watch Scruton’s documentary for the BBC here:
I have just recently started my more serious-minded research into beauty in contemporary art. I do not agree with the view that we are loosing beauty; too many new works demonstrate too much beauty for me to share Scruton’s pessimism. But his negative view on the contemporary art scene does not mean that his understanding of beauty should be dismissed. Rather it should be discussed.
Scruton’s short presentations of Shaftesbury & Kant are unusually clear, and can help us understand the meaning of beauty, also today. I do agree with the proposition that we have to be much more conscious on the value of beauty. We have to be willing to cultivate it, without fear of being labelled sentimental or naive.
Here are some questions to consider:
- What is beauty?
- Does it exist?
- We live in a utilitarian culture, in a society where value = money. But what’s the use of love, friendship and imagination in a world where money is the scale? And what is the use of beauty in such a civilization?
From the beginning of western civilization poets and philosophers have seen the experience of beauty as calling us to the divine. Through beauty we are brought into the presence of the sacred. Art saved us from the meaningless routines of ordinary life. But then (in 1917, to be more precise), art turned it’s back on beauty.
In the opinion of Roger Scruton, contemporary art is just another part of consumer culture, wallowing in self-discust.
- Is it true, as Scruton suggests, that we live in a loveless culture, determined to portray the world as unlovable?
I see the Jake and Dinos Chapman exhibition: Come and See, at Serpentine Sackler Gallery, as an excellent example of what worries Scruton in contemporary art. I went to visit the exhibition when last in London. I found it deeply disturbing, but would not – as Scruton might – call it a fake work of art.