Clement Greenberg is the brilliant and extreme case. He once wrote:
“Value judgments constitute the substance of aesthetic experience. I don’t want to argue this assertion. I point to it as a fact, the fact that identifies the presence, the reality in experience of the aesthetic. I don’t want to argue, either, about the nature of aesthetic value judgments. They are acts of intuition, and intuition remains unanalyzable.”
I don’t want to argue either. It is a beautiful night in South Beach and there is a man standing on a balcony not far from me exclaiming loudly, slowly, and with labored enunciation, “I am an exceptional artist” to any and everyone standing in the sudden tropical downpour below. Earlier today a man explained to me that he collects old giant objects. Not new giant objects, not old regular-sized objects. He collects old giant objects and he has been doing it obsessively for longer than I have been alive. So, agreed, I’m in no mood to argue about the substance of aesthetic experience. I would like to point out one thing though.
If Clement Greenberg is right than it shouldn’t — it couldn’t — matter whether we’re looking at a work in a museum, in a gallery, in someone’s home, or at an art fair. Intuition is going to do the mysterious work it does and no one’s going to damn well stop it. “Show me a work,” suggests Clem, “and I’ll view it and judge it practically before you even set the sucker down.” This is a site-indifferent approach to the process of looking at art. I suspect you could throw paintings at Clement Greenberg while he was standing at the bottom of a gorge and he would have been satisfied that he’d done most of them justice in the next week’s column. I exaggerate for effect.
But if my Aunt Lou Ann is right, and she has never steered me wrong, then we have to be prepared for the idea that art is not the selfsame thing in all cases that Clement Greenberg (and most of the rest of us, though in less stubborn and precise manner) assume it to be. Point being that if I glance suddenly at an Anselm Kiefer painting in a booth at Art Basel, I’m going to look at it slightly differently if I have an eye toward things I might acquire than if I intend to write an article, or borrow something for a museum show.