Interview: David Galenson- page 2 | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian
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Interview: David Galenson

Pondering the nature of artistic genius, a social scientist finds that creativity has a bottom line

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How come?

In modern art, both critics and collectors have recognized that innovation is the key to value in art. Still, there will always be the Cezannes of the world, though we may not know who they are until they are in their 60s or 70s or 80s.

How will we recognize them?

Other artists will tell us. Cezanne became important after he died because Matisse and Picasso had begun to use his work. It's not curators, it's not critics, it's not the public, it's not collectors who find great artists—it's other artists.

What's the difference in how Young Geniuses and Old Masters think?

Conceptual people—the Young Geniuses—emphasize the new idea, and plan their work very carefully. They often say that the execution is perfunctory. Indeed, in today's world, some of the greatest conceptual artists don't even execute their own work—they have it made by other people. But the Old Masters are never entirely sure what it is they want done, so they couldn't possibly have anybody else do it. Cezanne couldn't have said to somebody, "Go and make a painting for me."

Are you an Old Master or a Young Genius?

I'm certainly not a Young Genius; whether I become an Old Master is yet to be seen.

So there's hope for late bloomers?

Yes, but you don't want to compete with conceptual people. They leap from topic to topic. Many Old Masters feel pressure to compete with them by changing subjects, which is a tremendous mistake.


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