Why All-White Paintings in Museums Cost Millions?

White Paintings in Museums

Maybe the most commonly spoken phrase inside a modern art museum is, “I could do that.” If everyone can make these controversial pieces, why did artist Robert Ryman‘s all-white painting, “Bridge,” fetch $20.6M at auction? Is it even actually art?

Paintings like Ryman’s are considered Minimalism Art, which came about in the late 1950s as a rejection of Expressionism Art. According to Elisabeth Sherman, assistant curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, there is more to both of these movements than meets the eye, literally. Perhaps the most renowned abstract expressionist artist was Jackson Pollack, whose colorful paint-splattered work was all about the artists’ movement, their bodies, their “expressions” during a moment in time.

Minimalism, by contrast, is meant to portray order, simplicity, and harmony, and states that art should be as far removed from its creator as possible. Both motions commonly evoke strong emotional reactions from audiences. The study of one’s reaction to modern art, Sherman argues, is exactly what makes these seemingly over-simplistic creations of art. Put more plainly, maybe “you could do that,” but you didn’t.


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