Monday, February 12, 2007

Oprah Magazine

There is a piece in the current issue of Oprah Magazine (my girlfriend pointed it out to me) that seems pretty appropriate for this blog.
I can't find it online, but I'll write it up for you.

Why a Real Picasso Costs Zillions
What's the difference between a poster and original - besides the money? Alain de Botton looks at the strokes of genius.

My feeling is that works of art conjure up very intense, very personal feelings in people: They make us cry and laugh and reflect on our lives. Through this power, we develop a feeling that is akin to a friendship. Works of art tell us person, true things that even our best friends sometimes don't tell us. They are better than friends. And almost all the time, with paintings, a copy isn't as good as the original. Something gets lost. The copy tends to lose all sorts of information along the way - a particular kind of light or texture or brushstroke that isn't understood by the copyist. Getting it perfect is far, far harder than one might think. One would have to perfectly imitate the hands of a master, which is quasi-impossible.
I don't want to say that we love the original out of mystical reverence for the artist. For the most part, we love the original because it's plain better. The reproductions of paintings are like poems that have been reproduced in a paperback with half words left out. And the joy of seeing a work of art in the flesh that one has previously known only from, let's say, an image in a book, is that suddenly our eyes can benefit from new information. Let's imagine that the image has 10,000 pieces of information in it. Six-by-four-inch photographs in books necessarily lose a lot of information that can be gained only by seeing them in person.
If architecture is properly reproduced, it could be interesting. Mies van de Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion was rebuilt in the 1980's on the spot where the original once stood, and no one seems to mind. It's very popular because it's been meticulously copied. But architecture tends to depend a lot for its success on its site. Uprooting a building is like a transposing a piece of music with a different set of instruments - like playing a Bach cello concerto on an electric guitar. Much is likely to be lost.
The only art form in which copies have a good name is literature, and that's because the copies of books are excellent in quality. They convey all the things we care about.
- As told to Jancee Dunn, printed with a photo of Le Reve.

I like the author's description of art and agree that most posters cannot capture those intense feelings, but I believe mine does because it is not just a copy, but a poster with a story that is connected directly to the painting. And that story adds so much to the painting (and the poster).

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