THE REPLICA INSIDE THE CAVE

In 1963 the caves in Lascaux in France were closed to the public in order to protect its 17.000-year-old paintings from the destruction that would have resulted from continued visits by the public.

 

In the face of the ruthless and catastrophic exploitation of the highest achievements in art and culture of the past (up until the 1960s) at the hands of today's culture industry - is it perhaps time to ask whether they should also be considered a 'World Heritage in Danger' and should be given some form of protection from this industry?

  1. Over the last few decades, our relationship to the past and to the highest achievements in art and culture of the past, has been dramatically redefined.

  2. The contemporary art and culture industry, which has by now fully merged with the tourism-, entertainment- and fashion industries, recklessly exploits, distorts, redefines and hollows out the specific quality and essence of past achievements.

  3. An epitome of the abuse and prostitution of art made in the past is the fate suffered by van Gogh at the hands of the Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam.

  4. In this museum, van Gogh's paintings are presented as a mere footnote, an obligatory reference - very much like quoting a primary source in a text.

  5. A giant blow-up of a detail of one of van Gogh's self-portraits on the wall behind the small original paintings in glass cases make it outright impossible to look at the originals.

  6. This simply astonishing decision, which is clearly detrimental to van Gogh's work, has - as far as we can see- not attracted any criticism and speaks volumes about the museum's attitude towards van Gogh. 

  7. Whilst purporting to honour, promote and protect van Gogh's legacy, this museum's display distracts from and suppresses the specific quality of the original and any possibility of a perception of this quality by the audience. 

  8. This specific quality and the complexity and intellect embodied by the artwork made in the past are seen as superfluous, a mere hindrance to the process of commercialisation - and are consequently suppressed.

  9. Measurable commercial gain overrides the relevance of the incommensurable quality and substance of the artwork.

  10. The museum's display is single-mindedly focussed on entertainment, spectacle and commerce.

  11. In the Van Gogh Museum's atrium, several large and continuously changing video screens show cartoon-like images of van Gogh and his works in digitally altered states - random images of sunflowers, of van Gogh with or without his ear, or made to look like a Holywood actor and so on.

  12. Giant blow-ups of van Gogh self-portraits throughout the museum provide popular selfie-backgrounds.

  13. Not only an (alleged) equivalence of the reproduction with its original but even superiority of the reproduction over the original, is rammed down the audience's throats throughout the museum.

  14. By the time the visitor reaches the gift shop, the apron, mug, wristwatch or tote bag carrying sunflower and bandaged-ear motives have been raised to the level of the original artwork.

  15. The merchandise now embodies the same quality as the -by now invisible and permutated- 'original'.

  16. Not only museums but also luxury fashion labels and contemporary artists today (ab)use art and culture of the past to bestow their own vacuous products with an air of cultivation, significance, gravitas, intellect and uniqueness - without attracting any criticism. (see also 'The prostitution of artists and art.')

  17. The high-quality resolution of a reproduction -or sleekness of the luxury product, or the spectacle achieved by redefining art or architecture of the past- distract from their own sheer and utter vacuity.

  18. The medium - the material and size which were a specific choice by the artist- is deemed to be completely irrelevant and therefore, exchangeable. Thus a painting can, apparently, be directly 'translated' into a rug - or similar. 

  19. The experience of looking at art is redefined as entertainment. The audience's role is redefined and restricted to being consumers of entertainment. Every other possibility of an approach to the original is curtailed.

  20. Just where are the critical voices? The total silence, especially amongst art professionals in the face of this development, is eerie.

  21. A call for a protection of van Gogh's work from the very museum that purports to protect his legacy, and in fact a general debate about how to protect our cultural heritage from the culture industry, is long overdue. 

  22. The decision to close the Lascaux caves to the public, after it became clear that the presence of visitors caused irreversible damage to the paintings, was not met with any resistance. 

  23. This decision is an example of our collective responsibility towards our cultural heritage.

  24. This self-restraint honours the work of our ancestors and is an expression of our self-respect.

  25. The redefinition of past achievements in the name of an alleged democratisation of art is one of the culture industry's most powerful strategies.  Whilst it distorts the past, it suppresses development and damages and impoverishes individuals and society on the whole.

  26. Whereas van Gogh's paintings (or da Vinci's Mona Lisa, or Munch's Scream etc. ) are not physically damaged by their commercialisation, the real damage done is of a much more serious, deeper and wide-ranging nature: the hollowing-out of art and culture at the hands of the culture industry eviscerates the very essence of what it means to be 'human'. 

  27. It attacks, manipulates and dumbs-down the very mind that had so exquisitely manifested itself in the form of the very first carvings on animal bones or paintings in caves -the emergence of the modern mind'- which had set us apart from animal nature tens of thousands of years ago.

  28. (In 2017, the Van Gogh Museum attracted 2.3 million visitors.

  29. The museum's display and marketing strategy have -as far as we can see- not attracted any criticism whatsoever.

  30. At a price of 19 Euros per ticket, a staggering 830.300.000 Euros were generated in 2017 through ticket sales alone. The added income through merchandise and the museum restaurant is not known, let alone the profit from the 'Moving van Gogh' exhibition which tours globally. But one does wonder - where does the profit go?)

  31. It comes as no surprise that apart from the museum's director, Axel Rueger, none of the members of the senior management team, board or advisory group has got any qualifications in fine art or art history. qualifications.https://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en/organisation/management-team

  32. We highly recommend taking a look at the 'Business' page on the museum's website which illustrates the museum's open prostitution of van Gogh's art: 

  33. https://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en/busines

  34. Under the heading 'Product development and purchasing' we read, for example: "In addition to popular souvenirs such as mugs, magnets and T-shirts, we also develop typically Dutch products including bike bells and treacle waffles.[...] All products exude the character of van Gogh's work. [...] "Are you interested in offering products from our range in your shop, but lack experience in sales or product development? We would be delighted to help. Our extensive expertise and experience, combined with our large international network of suppliers, means that we are ideally positioned to develop high-quality products for our contacts." and so on.

  35. The obscenely lucrative sell-out of the work itself is framed as a democratisation of art, making van Gogh "even more accessible" globally.

  36. The museum has now produced a limited edition of highly sophisticated copies of van Gogh's paintings which are sold as 'exact copies'. Texture and image are reproduced separately. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=84&v=ACv877QU4J4&feature=emb_logo

  37. Several 'Van Gogh Museum' simulacra worldwide are now a real possibility. 

  38. It would not come as a surprise if some of the originals in the Amsterdam museum had already been replaced with copies.

  39. The ownership of gift shop merchandise, a high-quality reproduction (or a luxury item) promises ownership of the original artwork.​ 

  40. Sold in a city -incidentally world-famous for its red-light district and legalised narcotic drugs- these everyday objects, bestowed with an empty air of cultivation, are mere shadows of human achievements - and the saddest trophies and symbols of our degraded humanity. 

  41. 'Old Towns' in major cities all over the world suffer the same fate and are made to play the same role as the 'Old Masters'.

  42. As art of the past is continuously repurposed for commercial gain and the culture industry's own standards suppress new development in contemporary art, contemporary art and culture are frozen in a state of stasis. 

  43. The contemporary culture industry suppresses an in-depth understanding and knowledge of past achievements and promotes the abolishment of the role of art history.

  44. Only an audience in complete ignorance of what has been achieved in the past is oblivious to the distortion of these achievements by the industry, as well as to the perpetual repetition of similar or the same recipes in contemporary art.

  45. The suppression of art history suppresses standards for the judgement of art.

  46. Contemporary artists no longer measure their own work against the highest achievements in art of the past but against their own contemporaries who comply with the culture industry's standards.

  47. There is a -hitherto unaddressed- stark schism between the standards applied to art production and reception in the past and the standards of the present. This is reflected in the schism between original and simulacrum.

  48. A dangerous vacuum is created. Both, schism and resulting vacuum, urgently need to be addressed in the public art discourse.

  49. How much cultural fast food can societies worldwide produce and consume before we realise how unwell we have become in the process?

  50. For how much longer can we go on hollowing out the art and culture of the past, 'milking' its meaning, power, quality, intellectual capital and substance - without contributing artworks of a similarly high standard of our own time?

  51. What do WE pass on to FUTURE generations?

quote from the Van Gogh Museum website: "All [gift shop] products exude the quality of van Gogh's work."

"On all sides the borderline between culture and empirical reality becomes more and more indistinct. [...] With the liquidation of its opposition to empirical reality

art assumes a parasitic character."

-T.W. Adorno, "The Culture Industry" , 1944 [!]

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