Monday, September 16, 2013

The Infinite Art Tournament Turns 2

So that pairing, Guardi v. Guercino, was #99.  Next week will be the hundredth First Round pairing, and our exciting introduction to artists whose last name begins with the letter "H."  Indeed, we are only three First-Round matches from the bottom of the third sheet of our eight-page bracket.  Meanwhile, the Play-In SubTournament has moved into its second phase and within a month or two will actually launch a few artists out into the main bracket.  It is an exciting time to be alive.

People still occasionally find ways to let me know that the Tournament is dumb.  Well, duh.  It should be obvious that the Tournament is not trying to be particularly smart.  The Tournament is just a machine for art appreciation, and I daresay it works pretty well if you let it.

This is the kind of thing we pass on, because we have an embarrassment of riches.

Nevertheless, I had more sympathy than usual for the naysayers a few weeks ago, when I had the opportunity to spend several hours at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  It was instructive, for instance, to spend some time with the paintings of Daubigny.  He inspired no affection among us at all.  With only four votes for and 26 against, he has the worst relative score of anyone who has left the Tournament to date.  But in person, his proto-Impressionist landscapes are gorgeous, beautifully executed and -- this bugged me, somehow -- much, much smaller than I had expected.  Jean Arp, a flash in the Tournament pan, is puckish and charming in a museum setting.  Derain, a recent 2-and-out, was magnificent.  The Boston MFA has a huge American collection, and it seemed that every time I stopped in front of one to say "wow," it turned out I was looking at an Allston, the very first artist we voted out of the Tournament, or a Copley, one of the most recent.

(Note: since I wrote the first draft, Domenicino -- a painter once designated by a fairly representative critic as the fourth best of all time, before he fell out of fashion -- passed Daubigny as the artist with the most painful Tournament record.)

Well, the nature of a tournament is that competitors get eliminated, I guess, and since this is a tournament of acknowledged masters there shouldn't be too many we are downright delighted to see booted out.  (Naturally there are a few.  For me, I look forward with unseemly glee to taking Gilbert and George and, even now, Roy Lichtenstein off of the brackets; I'm sure you have a few artists you are looking forward to seeing on the Wednesday Post yourself.)  But for a few days, I admit I felt like this little Tournament was somehow a negative little thing, trivializing the art through its own triviality.

Don't worry, I'm back now. We've got some topsy-turvy madness coming up in the brackets this week!!  Plus, at least one of us will enjoy some gratifying schadenfreude.  It's gonna be great!

Domenichino tallied a vote total of 3-21 and suffered the Tournament's first shutout
on the way to a hasty exit.  His St. John the Evangelist, however, was auctioned
in 2009 for £9.2 million. Somebody still loves him.


Elizabeth said...

Well, *I* liked Daubigny. But I also appreciate the time and effort you spend bringing these well-known and lesser-known and previously-to-me-unknown artists to light. Because then when I see them in person I think "ooh, I remember this one from the M5K tournament!"

mrs.5000 said...

I am liking this art craze. And look forward to a continued embarrassment of riches, the whole alphabet through.

pfly said...

I've learned a great deal so far, and have had fun. It's great! Of course it's also kinda silly—I wouldn't say dumb, but silly sure. Silly is good! The alphabetical "seeding" is at once at once a simple, even elegant, though also silly solution to something it would be impossible to "do right". So it results in some greats being taken out "too soon", and some less great greats lingering on. Part of the fun is seeing each new match-up. Sometimes they make me laugh for being so...weird. Like, um...(quickly searching archives),

And of course looking at paintings and sculptures on a little computer screen is VERY different from seeing them for real. Usually they are more impressive in person...although not always, maybe. I always remember the first time I went to the MoMA and saw all these super famous paintings I had seen in books and on computers a million times. Some of them looked so *sloppy* in person. Others, well...I don't know if Clyfford Still is coming in the tournament, but there's no way a computer screen version could possibly do justice to even one of his paintings, let alone the Clifford Still *room* at the Met. Not to say Still is Utterly Amazing or anything—he might be rather boring—but that room was always one of my favorite at the Met, and not only because it was almost always empty!

Anyway, it's great, and fun. Good 2 years, looking forward to an infinity more!

Anonymous said...

I haven't voted (I barely get what is going on--I don't understand brackets), but I would hate to see you stop! I enjoy seeing the work of tons of artists I may never otherwise lay eyes on. You are doing the world a service! Thank you.