Tag Archive: ancient_art


Mistaken Beauty

           One of the first things we were asked to write about in my aesthetics class was a time when we either thought something was beautiful and later came to realize it wasn’t, or came to find something we didn’t find beautiful, beautiful.  At the time I couldn’t really think of a good answer, so I’ve decided to revisit it.  I’m not saying I’ll definitely come up with a good answer, but I’ll try.

            I can think of a few instances where I got to see pieces of art I may have seen in class in person and found them much more impressive than I did originally.  But that’s not really the same.  I’m really having trouble thinking of something, and I feel like it shouldn’t be this hard.  All I can really think of is pigs.  I used to be fairly indifferent to pigs but then when I got to see the little baby pot-bellied pigs in person I completely fell in love with them.  Now I think pigs, especially lil pigs are just so cute.  But then again that goes back to my post a couple of weeks ago about cute vs. beauty so it still might not be the same thing.

            The answer I gave in class was ancient art.  I used to not really care about or be very interested in ancient art.  But after taking two ancient art classes (Islamic Art, which wasn’t all ancient stuff, but a lot of it was, and Ancient Mesopotamian Art) I definitely saw it in a new light.  I’m not sure if I found it more beautiful though.  I think I just found it more interesting and appreciated it more after learning about it.  But I think it’s the closest I’ve come to not finding something beautiful originally and then changing my mind. 

            Certainly when it comes to people there have been times I found someone attractive at first, but then found them less appealing after getting to know them better.  Nice outsides can only cover ugly insides so much.  So I am familiar with the disappointment that goes along with discovering that mistake.  But I can’t really think of a specific thing.

            Well, since I still can’t really think of a great answer, I’ll open the question up to you dear readers.  Has there been a time you realized something you once dismissed was beautiful after all?  Has there been a time when you found something you once thought beautiful not to be so at all?

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           As someone who hopes to one day own her own gallery, I’m a bit offended by Heidegger’s opinions about the art industry (in “The Origin of the Work of Art).  He’s not entirely wrong but I don’t think he’s entirely right either.  He says that the displacement of art destroys the world of the piece.  I believe this is true for certain art – ancient art taken from its natural setting and put in a museum mainly.  But even on that I’m a bit torn.  On the one hand, I don’t think artifacts should be removed from their original settings.  But on the other hand, they do need to be preserved and putting them in a museum allows more people to see them and experience them.  Over the summer I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art and in the ancient Mesopotamian section was able to see the giant Lamasus and relief carvings from Shalmaneser III’s palace that I learned about the previous semester.  It was amazing being around these monumental pieces of art and to experience them, even if they were not in their original environment.  So yes, Heidegger’s view of the art industry destroying the world of a piece I think is valid for ancient art and monuments that have an original environment in the first place. 

            However I think Heidegger is overlooking one thing.  For much modern art, especially painting and photography, the gallery is the world of the art.  The gallery is its intended space.  This however, puts a lot of pressure on the person in charge of setting up exhibits to make sure each piece is shown in a way that is true to the piece and does not destroy its world.  There are so many factors that influence how a work of art is perceived.  From lighting to frame, all these things matter.  Living artists have the option of controlling how their work is seen and able to preserve the world.  For artists who are no longer around though, it’s up to the curators.  Curators must take this responsibility of not destroying the world of a piece seriously.

Lamasu at the Met