Painting by Numbers: Komar and Melamid's Scientific Guide to Art

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University of California Press, 1999 - Art - 203 pages
What is art? Who defines it? And why is high art so remote from most people? With the same puckish humor and critical genius that made them the betes noires of Soviet cultural commissars, the Russian emigre art team of Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid takes on not only the billion-dollar American art industry but also capitalism's most venerated tool: the market research poll. With the help of The Nation Institute and a professional polling team, they discovered that what Americans want in art, regardless of class, race, or gender, is exactly what the art world disdains -- a tranquil, realistic blue landscape.

Painting by Numbers includes the original questionnaire and reproductions of the "most wanted" and "most unwanted" paintings the artists made based on American survey results and on polls they commissioned in ten other countries -- including Russia, China, France, and Kenya -- representing almost one-third of the world's population. Essays by JoAnn Wypijewski and noted art critic Arthur Danto, as well as an interview with the artists, explore the crisis of modernism, the cultural meaning of polls, the significance of landscape, and the commodification of just about everything.

Komar and Melamid ask whether a truly public art is possible. More an opening fusillade than a final answer, Painting by Numbers is a provocative, comic, and profound discussion of art in our time.


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User Review  - paperloverevolution - LibraryThing

Komar and Melamid traveled the world, holding town-hall style meetings to determine what people most (and least) wanted to see in a painting. There are charts and graphs to support their findings, and ... Read full review

Painting by numbers: Komar and Melamid's scientific guide to art

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

In December 1993, the Russian emigre art collaborators Komar and Melamid began a statistical market research poll to determine America's "most wanted" and "most unwanted" paintings. Since then, the ... Read full review

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About the author (1999)

JoAnn Wypijewski is a senior editor at The Nation. Her work has appeared there as well as in Harper's, Il Manifesto, and other publications. Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid, pioneers of Soviet conceptual art, were expelled from official Soviet artists' associations and subsequently emigrated to the United States in 1978.

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