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Objective Value in Art

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I recently visited the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao and got embroiled in a conversation on the value of art, and in particular the value of modern art. This is an age old question, and more specifically this question: does art have (can art have) objective value, or is its value purely subjective? Surely the value of art resides in the effect (the affect) it has on the observer, so the value of art is by very nature a subjective thing.

Art has value if it produces a worthwhile affect (including whether or not we like it), if it moves (or resonates) emotionally with the viewer, if it stimulates the viewer to intellectual thought, or if the art provides some commentary on society, humanity or the world around us (does the art "speak to us"). Modern art attempts to do this in abstraction, by removing recognisable representation of the world it can (potentially) speak to a deeper part of us than merely the conscious and rational mind. Abstraction can (in theory) evoke primal fee…