THE BLOG
01/10/2014 12:56 pm ET Updated Mar 10, 2014

A Look at High Art in the 21st Century: Pictures at a Museum's Shop.

On a well planned culture trip we seek a world class museum in New York or Paris or Berlin. We take days to visit the numerous rooms, halls and floors of the majestic and luxurious palace as we walk on a chronological path and gawk at some of the masterworks of the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, e.g. Dürer, Bosch, Fra Angelico, Holbein, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Titian, Raphael, Brueghel, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Rubens, Goya, Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Cézanne, Aivazovsky, Whistler and Turner ...

We marvel at true genius, at some of the highest achievements of humanity and the expression of a civilization -- all under one roof. Then we enter the hall with the tip of the top of the crop of the 20th century, e.g. Malevich, Duchamp, Picasso, Dali, Miro, Chagall, Kandinsky ... but with every further room the exhibition of images becomes more grotesque, disgusting, brutal and glum. That makes a lot of sense when one is familiar with the history of the 20th century: The civilized world exposed itself as grotesque, disgusting, brutal and glum.

But then we walk further, rightly shocked and violated, and soon we stumble into absurdity, kitsch, rubbish, incompetence and charlatanry. A few further steps down this exhibition and we encounter concept art without art, bullshit that insults the intelligence of a troglodyte, industrial design i.e. glorified wallpaper, the pitiful attempt to shock with ever more outlandish extremes, skillful craftsmanship superseded by superior salesmanship and plain nonsense -- the tip of the top of the crap. Then -- confused and slightly upset -- we stumble into the museum's shop and stand in shock and awe.

In shock and awe of the trajectory we just witnessed: After the prometheic visions of Dürer, Bosch, Fra Angelico, Holbein, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Titian, Raphael, Brueghel, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Rubens, Goya, Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Cézanne, Aivazovsky, Whistler, Turner, Malevich, Duchamp, Picasso, Dali, Miro, Chagall and Kandinsky we encountered the deplorable representation of the late 20th century followed by nothing but the museum's shop ... that's what our civilization produced as High Art in the latter part of the 20th century until today?

We created abundance in the civilized world and cherish the history of our culture and the culture of our history, or so we say, and that last room before the museum's shop exhibits the best we can do in and with the visual arts sector? Isn't a crap in a frame still crap? Is a super sized cartoon worth 20 lemons? Should we have to look at stuff in a museum that a chimpanzee can produce? Is wrapping things or buildings really Art? Should money walk and bullshit talk even at the shrine of muses? Isn't modern art in the 21st century neither modern nor art? Aren't we literally decorating De-evolution? Is that Emperor clothed at all? Will future generations accept this last exhibition before the museum's shop as the legitimate continuation of European Tradition of High Art or label it as a nail in its coffin?

We shrug, pretend, rationalize, try, fail, then ignore and finally go to town at the Museum's shop! Isn't that a reason for concern?