Paintings are stupid and useless. That outrageously sweeping statement may seem somewhat controversial, but I’d like to argue the case for a second. In the modern world, we are all walking around with hundreds, if not thousands of high quality photographs in our pockets. There’s everything in there from your favourite cultural destinations to the picture of the nasty rash on your inner thigh. Nothing happens or exists now without being documented in high definition. Therefore, paintings are stupid and useless. In fact, I could tour galleries and take pictures of the paintings and render them entirely redundant. They’re completely pointless, yet they are cherished and, in some cases, priceless.
Do you know what the next version of fine art will be? It will be the functional objects that we use every day. Think about a sewing machine. Nothing beautiful or artistic about that is there? But consider one of those old pedal Singer machines. They used to be a practical item in the household, now they’re worth an extraordinary amount of money and people just stick them in their lounge to impress Ken and Jenny from work (what they don’t know is that Ken and Jenny couldn’t give a shit about a Singer sewing machine. They’re into cocaine and BDSM).
I happened to be at the annual Orkney Vintage Car Rally on the weekend, and let me tell you, it was as wild as it sounds. There was one thing that did catch my eye in amongst the hundreds of tractors, and that was a rusting old mini. It was in a perfect state of decay. Now, this mini is completely un-restorable due to rust, but it was an absolute work of art to behold. Then, across the way was a Corvette Stingray from the late 60’s. It might not be to your taste, but if that’s not a work of art, I don’t know what is. The Corvette Stingray did not need to look like that. There is no practical purpose for the design. The folk at GM just wanted to make it look f*&king cool. Mission accomplished.
Leonardo Da Vinci was probably pretty good at painting, but back then he was just executing a necessary skill. He is the equivalent of a modern day wedding photographer. The Mona Lisa is a very small painting of a grumpy woman. I fail to see how this is more appealing than a Ford Mondeo and yet people queue for miles to pretend they can see it! The Mona Lisa never came with cup holders or a V6 option.
Just like modern art, new car designs are frequently polarising and often detested. The general rule is that the more controversial and radical the style, the more likely it is to be an icon. Think about the Countach, the 57’ Chev and the AC Cobra. When they first came out, people were aghast at the radical angles, crazy fins and long bonnets, but they are all undoubtedly works of art. And, like works of fine art, these three examples are also much better to sit and stare at than to drive.
In an interview in 2009 for Eric Bana’s ‘Love the Beast’, Jeremy Clarkson talked about muscle cars being “plinth cars”. He argued that they are so beautiful, yet so bad to drive that they should be put on plinths like works of art so their beauty can be admired for eternity. Sounds like my sort of gallery. I would take this further. Forget just muscle cars and supercars, if you let enough time pass, a Ford Fiesta will be considered a novelty and be admired. Christ, some misguided fools might even appreciate the beauty hidden within a Nissan Juke (that physically hurt to write).
So the next time your derided by friends and family for being a hooligan or a petrolhead, explain that you are actually a custodian of future fine art and then tell them to f*&k off.