Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Top 200 artists of the 20th Century to now

Lists like these always end up in controversy, but at least the Times Top 200 Artists of the 20th Century to Now overview is based on a respectable amount of readers' votes: 1.4 million! Fellow blogger Art Ravels has also given her thoughts on the list recently, and I will put a few of my reactions here as well.
First off, I found it sobering, yes even humiliating, that I did not recognise four of the top 20 at all, let alone if you go further down the list. Also after I checked them at wikipedia, these names did not ring a bell: Robert Rauschenberg, Constantin Brancusi, Jasper Johns and Martin Kippenberger. Oh well, learning all the time.
It is of course unavoidable that some artists score higher than you would put them yourself, but in several cases you can see why others would think otherwise. From the top 10, Picasso, Cezanne, Matisse and Mondrian would be in that group. On the other hand, I think several others are really ranked too high (Duchamp and Warhol have been influential but lack artistic depth to be top 10 material - in my opinion of course).
It is very human of course to also focus on the names that are not there, and especially since there are 200 listed on the Times site, you would expect your own favourites to make the cut if they are not too obscure. However, my all-time favourite artist is not there at all: Franz Marc. Also surprisingly absent are the likes of Macke, Lempicka and Zhao. On the positive side, I notice with pleasure top100 scores for artists like Richter and Kiefer, and even a top 10 for de Kooning.
In the end of course it is nothing more than a list reflecting the taste of a lot of people. It does not mean that these are the greatest artists. Like I refuse to acknowledge that winners of similar popularity contests are the best ever - think Beethoven's 9th for classical music, Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody for rock songs, Beatles' Sergeant Pepper for rock albums - this list has no effect on your own appreciation. It is fun though to explore so many unfamiliar names - and that's for me the real value.

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