Vermeer to Wiener

June 13, 2011 § 2 Comments

I was thinking back to an essay I once read, though I cannot remember its exact origins, that smartly remarked on the importance of history and place in art appreciation. The essayist offered the example of Hans van Meegeren, the notorious Vermeer forgerer, whose 1937 recreation of Supper at Emmaus was once hailed by art critics as the finest Vermeer they had ever seen. When the Nazi war criminal Hermann Goring discovered that the Vermeer in his possession was actually a van Meegeren forgery, it is said that Goring was incensed beyond belief, even on the eve of his death. So the essayist noted that we value the story of a work of art as much as we value its particularity, or its stylistic merits.

How American is this idea though? In politics today, Obama has finally acknowledged Wienergate and suggested on NBC that the beleaguered representative resign from public service. It’s total deja-vu. It seems like a story we’ve heard time and again, where one unfaithful politician after another is outed, faces a large hue and cry, and the public and the media decides that someone’s personal life is everyone’s business. Why is it that we care so much about someone’s story when it may or may not, and probably won’t be relevant at all to how that person does their job? Why do we make it so comprehensive a judgment on the merit of the thing?

When I moved to the United State from India, this insistence on personalization was what surprised me the most in the cultural transition. I was from a culture where we catalogue pop music not by singer but by composer. We eschew designer clothing brands in favor of our homespun, familiar tailor down the street.We vote parties, not people. After all, our prime minister is this guy

Manmohan Singh

Do you think that he could have passed the kind of superficial scrutiny we subject our politicians to in the USA?

§ 2 Responses to Vermeer to Wiener

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