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Art Survey
They usually call about dinnertime, precisely halfway through the meal, tucked away somewhere between the beans and potatoes. It usually takes a minute to two to decide they're not telemarketers, then another minute or two to decide whether you can eat and talk at the same time in taking their phone survey. It usually has to do with what brand of cola you prefer, or the kind of kibbles Fido likes best (in which case it might be best to hand the phone to the dog). Others have to do with politics, cars, entertainment, or the price of tea in China. It's very rare they have anything to do with art--until now anyway.

It wasn't a phone survey in any case. Two Russian brothers in New York, decided to create a survey to discover why kind of art people liked best. And it wasn't just in New York, or even the rest of the United States. They went worldwide with it. If not having to do with the price of tea in China, they were at least concerned with the art of China and thirteen other countries. Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid put together a collection of 33 of their own paintings to test which one would go to the top of the "most wanted" list. They presented various colours, various subject matters, various backgrounds, and even religious and historic figures. What they found was both surprising on the one hand and to be expected on the other. The favourite colour was blue, almost universally around the world. The favourite painting in this country was a landscape with a lake, a lighthouse, hills, a family enjoying the scene, and an elk.

Okay now, you ready for this? The least favourite in the US was an abstract (big surprise) containing randomly scattered, overlapping triangles, a few rectangles thrown, in done in peach, orange, shades of gold, and teal. Just the thing for over the throne in the bathroom. There were some surprises. Americans liked historic figures in their paintings, also wildlife. Russians and Kenyans like religious figures; and in general, people all over the world favoured the representational over the abstract. Coming from a country steeped in dictatorship, the brothers became fascinated by the "American dictatorship," that being the general public and it's overwhelming preference for the banal. They came to realise through their work, however, that by in large, banality is a worldwide affliction. So, if you really want to "make it" in the art world, get out your paints, conjure up a nice, blue lake, add one family celebrating the Fourth of July possibly playing with dolphins, include a varmint or two, and just to be safe, throw in George Washington (in period costume of course) fishing.

Contributed by Lane, Jim
24 November 1999

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