I’m a long lover of the book The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. It tells the story of a young man obsessed with the luxuries of life, and who at first was full of innocence and beauty but slowly deteriorated to being full of hatred, ugliness, and corruption. What was fascinating about the story was that although humans usually are somehow affected by the sinful and immoral things they do, Dorian Gray’s physical appearance had never changed.
Although an undeniable gloss comes over a killer’s eye after he has completed his deed, and even he accepts himself as a changed man, Dorian Gray realized that his physical appearances were never changing, which he took advantage of to further corrupt himself inside. Each of the consequences of Gray’s unethical actions was actually reflecting on a painting of him. I don’t want to ruin the ending for anyone, and recommend this book for everyone, but I’m bringing it up because it’s a book that revolves around this very topic this question is presenting.
A revolving theme within the book is how art should be beautiful and useless.
Nowadays art is very far from this concept, and it’s as if the artist is forcing their personal, social, and political beliefs and thoughts upon their artwork. When walking through the famous Art Basel taking place in Miami, it’s hard to find a single artwork that seems appealing, truly beautiful and breath-taking. The artwork that is existent today doesn’t provoke the emotions that it should, it doesn’t meet the standards of being a higher pleasure.
Even in the book, the art that is mainly referred to as telling a story is operas and ballets. As unimpressive as artwork is today, what bearing could knowing one’s personal life make in one’s judgment of it? Is it going to make the artwork any more beautiful, or any more interesting than it first did? In my opinion, it will not.
In Wilde’s book, a quote that indirectly addresses this dilemma is “But beauty, real beauty, ends where an intellectual expression begins. Intellectual is in itself a mode of exaggeration, and destroys the harmony of any face.” And that’s exactly what art is today, an exaggeration. One cannot even judge is as art, because it is filled with one’s political and personal implications and beliefs. When one watches Swan Lake, a famous ballet show, they don’t need to know the political, personal, or social context behind the artist’s meaning or behind the show itself even, they just need to be in the moment, free themselves of all their thoughts, and actually watch and enjoy the show. Then they will see where true enjoyment is derived from.