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An elephant could paint that


It's a big week for the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, which today announced the appointment of Leslie Zemsky as the first female board president in the institution's history. To the surprise and relief of many an art-lover, the gallery also announced today that it would extend its hours to be open six days a week as opposed to a paltry four, starting Nov. 3.

The gallery also opened its exhibition of recent work by North Tonawanda-born artist Robert Mangold (look for a preview of the show in tomorrow's Gusto), who was in attendance at the gallery today for an event announcing several major new acquisitions and forthcoming exhibitions. Times are as tough economically as they've ever been, but from the looks of it, the Albright-Knox is soldiering through with tremendous momentum.

Of course, any time news of the gallery winds up above the fold, all the old debates about the worthiness of the art inside its walls crop up. Take a look at the comment section of Tom Buckham's story, and witness a debate fit for any middle-school classroom.

It's more than valid to question the value of contemporary art because, in fact, plenty of contemporary art, like contemporary film, contemporary television, or contemporary sports teams (I'm looking at you, Buffalo Bills), ain't so hot. And it's good to see people questioning the artistic status quo, which some people take to say that you have to like Jackson Pollock or else you're some sort of NASCAR-watching Philistine. Of course, contrary to what the comments on the Albright-Knox story today demonstrate, that's simplifying the matter to an egregious extent.

You can like NASCAR and like Jackson Pollock. You can hate NASCAR and hate Jackson Pollock. You can be ambivalent about both and be in love with Anish Kapoor. But you deserve to have all the information possible about the art you're either embracing or dismissing, and a forum for debate that doesn't diminish your opinion to a pithy stereotype. Sometimes that seems like too much to ask in the bar-room brawl that is the anonymous commenting game

But in that thread of comments, just when I was about to write off the discussion as hopeless, along came something resembling reason, in the form of a comment by Bflofirst:

"Art is no different than any other product - you spin a tale and get people to believe it is important and valuable and that creates the market," Bflofirst writes. "It isn't based on any measurable merit-type thing. Art like anything is a matter of personal taste. People can chose to make an investement in a piece they might even think is hideous just b/c they see they could sell it later for a fine profit. Like anything, pork belly futures or iPods, it is about money. Art is a business like football or making stoves."

That's cool. That we can work with. It resembles a reasonable argument, even though I don't agree with it. It doesn't attack another commenter, and it invites a similarly considered response. That's the kind of debate we should be aiming for.

--Colin Dabkowski

(Photo by Sharon Cantillon / The Buffalo News)



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