The statement “art for art’s sake” means that true art has no any moral, didactic, religious, historical, social or utilitarian functions. It is also known as an approximate equivalent of Latin slogan “Ars gratia artis” used by American company Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as opening credits.
The phrase can be applied to such movements of art as Abstract Expressionism and other forms of abstract art. Nevertheless there are still lot of opponents of it. Indeed it is quite difficult to separate art from any functions and meanings. While abstract artists create for art’s sake, their opponents try to connect art with life naming it and explaining possible variants of meaning. The subject is really controversial and pretty complicated. And to tell the truth I have never thought about it seriously.
Sometimes it is just impossible to understand abstract art. Many are puzzled with the question: what does it mean and at least what it can mean? What was the author’s intention? If you are not an art historian or an art critic than it would be pretty difficult to understand Black Square (1915) by Kazimir Malevich or Fountain (1917) by Marcel Duchamp. Visiting the Museum of Modern Art in New York City I get used to hear the following confessions: “I can definitely do it myself”, “It is as simple as anything”, “There is nothing special about it”. So they are right in a certain sense and some of the works are simple to create indeed. Take a canvas, black oils, brushes of different sizes, focus on something abstract and here we are! Of course you can do it but never do. So another conclusion we have to come to is that the art of the 20th century is intellectual one. Especially it concerns modernism. You have to realize that the only possible way to understand this type of art is to try perceive it through the prism of philosophy and obviously ideology of the 20th century. Otherwise this art would turn into pure absurd for you. It would be very funny to try to judge it. There is no any sense to do it. So it seems to be strange I agree. But for me there is no any other possible way to “read” this art.
When I saw Marcel Duchamps’ works for the first time I was amazed and surprised. Frankly speaking I was puzzled and even confused. At the time I was a teenager and I didn’t want to read any stuff about it. Later my close friend introduced some of works to me which are must for understanding the 20th century art.
At the same time it doesn’t mean that abstract or contemporary art is exactly for high-browed specialists graduated from art colleges. No, of course not. I met many people who knew nothing about Walter Benjamin or Clement Greenberg’s ideas. And you know what? They understood everything about this art. Then there is another question: what for this art? For mere understanding or for enjoyment? Is it possible to enjoy it or it is exactly intended for understanding? To tell the truth being so to say art prepared person I could hardly answer the question. And what about you?