"I could have done that". The usual utterance when observing a piece of contemporary art. In fact, it's these five words that create the hostility and scepticism towards modern and abstract that we see today. Is this hostility justified? Only if you've got a reason beyond the fact it's within your capabilities.
There is no doubt that the art we see today is a lot more minimalistic than that of days gone by. The epic paintings of great battles, biblical scenes, various writers, poets and politicians in extravagant surroundings have been replaced by urinals on their sides and canvasses that look like they have been done by toddlers in a playgroup. But does this mean the works of Pollock, Emin and Chagall are less thought-provoking than those of Boticelli, Dürer and Rembrandt? Nope. In fact, such a position is, I believe, nonsense. What happened to less is more?
One of the main problems here is the emergence of a homogeneous view of art and aesthetics. Society has created this image that art can only really be judged based on the ability that is required to create the piece, rather than the capability of the piece to make the subject, or observer, think - whether it is about what the piece itself represents, or how it is trying to portray the world we live in.
Another reason why this view of contemporary art has emerged is the loss of faith in the movement itself. This stems from for-profit 'artists' such as Damien Hirst, whose only skill is marketing and being a pretentious charlatan. His vivacious and frivolous displays are destroying the potential of modern art, and are creating the somewhat apathetic 'I could've done that' approach. Hirst and the like have eclipsed the talented young contemporary artists, and have perhaps put off the next generation, due to the pessimism they have created.
The problem, then, is not contemporary art itself, per se. It's the attitudes that have been generated by society at large, that wants art to have a utilitarian, practical, realistic slant. Perhaps then, the 'I could have done that' approach is one that has been imposed from the top-down - a kind of artistic hegemony.
All proponents of modern art, indeed of all art, need to help build new attitudes towards contemporary art to keep the movement alive. The vast majority of it is, in my opinion, thought-provoking, intriguing, and often gives an unconventional portrayal of the world. It has helped to put ideas and concepts into new, strange and dynamic forms. Yes, many of us have different tastes, but the sad reality is that there is, as mentioned before, a homogeneous view of art - mainly utilitarian. Creativity has many different forms and is expressed in an unlimited number of ways - deep down, we all know this. Why do we not seem to be encouraging it? Let the artists roam free!
To conclude, I would like to send a direct message to the readers of this piece. The next time you find yourself in the Tate or wherever it may be, if someone utters the words 'I could have done that', simply reply: 'then why didn't you?'