Briggs’s Guide To Modern Art

Briggs’s Guide To Modern Art

Many people say to me, “Briggs, how can I tell what is art, and what is not art?”

Easy, my friends. The art would is large and complex. But telling art from mundane objects is simple once you learn my system.

First find an object, then compare that object with this checklist. Is the object…?

  • Ugly
  • Named
  • Lauded

All three criteria must be met for a work to be true art, though any two are sufficient for ordinary art.

Let’s do some examples!


This is “Anish Kapoor with his 1992 Turner Prize installation”, which fetches ghastly amounts of money.

Not Art

This is a styrofoam ball from Hobby Lobby. Less than $1.


This is the Turner-prize winning entry from Grenville Davey. It’s value is priceless.

Not Art

This is a plastic bowl from Party City. Less than $1.


This is the Turner-prize winning entry from Anish Kapoor. If you have to ask, you cannot afford it.

Not Art

This is a set of decorative sand from Amazon. Costs about $5.


This banana duct taped to a wall is by renowned artist Maurizio Cattelan. It has been priced at $120,000. Must have tasted good.

Not Art

This is a banana made from duct tape, which doubles as a pencil case. It was given as a gift by the creator. It has no value.

Only Ordinary Art

This is Daniel Garber, Hawk’s Nest, 1917 Oil on Canvas, 132.1 x 142.2 cm Cincinnati Art Museum Cincinnati, Ohio. Garber’s work at least level might fetch anywhere in the neighborhood of $150,000-$300,000.

So this is lauded and expensive: but it is not ugly. Therefore it is not genuine art.

Try It Yourself!

As you can see in these examples, the method is flawless.

Each piece of genuine art was unspeakably ugly, stupid, insipid, or asinine, and sometimes all of these at once.

Each was beyond the means of the vast majority of the population. Only fools, the deluded, or genuine art lovers would pay such ruinous sums for these creations.

And each was lauded by either art critics or superior juries whose business it is to know real art from fake.

Whereas each other object, while being almost the exact duplicates, or even improvements of the genuine art, was not as ugly, not praised or sung about, and could be found at most of your better dollar stores.

Try it out! Find in public twisted blobs of metal. You could be near a construction site or garbage dump, or you could be witnessing sculpture, which is also art. Or locate a building with despairing angles, depressing coverings, and that looks like it’s about to topple. You could be near a shack ready to turn to dust. Or you could be viewing architecture, which is another kind of art.

Try it! You will see that my method never fails. Report your results below.

Bonus test! This reminds me of my youth. Art or not?

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  1. >This is a banana made from duct tape, which doubles as a pencil case. It was given as a gift by the creator.

    I thought the creator was an adorable 5 years old grandchild of yours and then followed the link and realized not quite. Challenge accepted. My 5 years old daughter and me will try to replicate that during the Christmas downtime.

  2. info

    Just as good and evil are inverted.

    So beauty and ugliness in the art world. Therefore Isaiah 5:20 applies to them.

    Calling Good Evil and Evil Good, Bitter for Sweet and Sweet for Bitter.

  3. J thomas

    I’m an atheist but enjoy your blog anyway.

  4. Sheri

    The duct taped banana COULD have been art, presented correctly. As could the the other examples of “not art”. While you insist nothing is random, ART IS RANDOM. Seriously, it is.

    The banana was eaten from the art, but is replaceable, which is good, since 4 week old bananas fall into the “not art” catagory. The masterpiece was designed to have the banana replaced, indicating the artist is fully aware of the con he’s pulling off.

    You miss the reality that art is NOT reality and is based on the snob selling the crap and the snob buying the crap. A garbage can can be art if marketed correctly. Art is marketing, not what is on the canvas or called a sculpture and is based on how many stupid rich people can be convinced they want the piece. There are many stupid rich people, so the market is very good right now. Unfortunately, Da Vinci lived ina low market and had to really produce quality art. There, now you understand “art” as defined by the degenerates running the world today.

    I shred, stomp on and burn “Little Women” books. I HATE them. Have my entire reading career, starting at about age 5 or so. HATE them. Horrid “literature” comparable to the stupid banana “art”.

  5. Michael Dowd

    Very good. Agree complete. Now for a personal story. Some years ago I decided to become an artist. I had no training. First thing was to rent a studio. Next buy canvas and paints. Next was to sign up for a few lessons with Sister Maureen and immediately start producing. I produced 50 paintings and other works in one year and entered exhibits at two local art centers. A few paintings were actually sold and I won 1st Prize of $200.00 by submitting a rustic olive wood salad bowl which I had mounted on a stand all for about $10.00. After that I stopped producing. And feeling ashamed at winning I gave it to the poor via Church. In my mind it was all a lark to prove that someone with no art talent can succeed. Shamelessness seems to be the primary requirement to succeed.

  6. Nate


    Pittsburgh, by John Raymond Henry. “Henry’s sculpture has been described as huge welded steel drawings…. There is a simple elegance and an unexpected sense of immediacy and lightness in his work.”

    Not Art

    Statue of Stephen Foster, ‘America’s First Composer’. <a href=";

    As it was Not Art and also Problematic, it has been removed. "An ongoing effort is being led by the City of Pittsburgh’s Task Force on Women in Public Art to put a statue depicting an African-American woman at the site where the Foster statue once stood"

  7. Yonason

    Do not despair, people. There is ugly enough out there to empty any pocketbook.
    found at creative-fruit-bowls-cool-fruit-holders at crooked brains(dot)net
    It may not be lauded, but as ugly as it is, and for what you’ll probably have to pay for it, you might be able to fool yourself (or some undiscerning guests) into thinking it’s art.

    If that didn’t make you laugh (kind of turned my stomach a bit), maybe this will.

    Art School Final Exam

    I am fortunate. I never had to read “Little Women.”

  8. Leftists always get everything backwards.

    Their entire faith and religion is based upon the denial of reality. Art is not-art, and not-art is art. Theft is commerce, and commerce is theft. Men are women, and women are men. The insane are sane, and the sane are insane. Children are adults, and adults are children.

  9. Nate

    To continue your though process @McChuck: Life is Death, Death is Life. Good is Evil, Evil Good.

    Woe to you that call evil good, and good evil: that put darkness for light, and light for darkness: that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter.

  10. Ye Olde Statistician

    It was only in the 19th century that the words “artist” and “artisan” parted company. Art had always meant skill. This was the basic distinction between “Bachelor of Science” (know) and “Bachelor of Arts” (know-how).

    When my former college decided to create an art museum on the lower level of one of the classroom buildings, they discovered during the renovation an obstacle irremovable: to wit, a sewer pipe. Since it ran through the room dedicated to 20th century art, the simply affixed a sign next it with the title of the work (“sewer pipe”) the name of the artist (the building’s architect) and the date (of construction), I don’t know if anyone noticed or if they were all in on the joke. Don’t know what has happened since then.

    John Lukacs has something to say about the decline of Art in his book At the End of an Age. The usual prefix: yalebooks[dot]yale[dot]edu[slash]book

  11. Sander van der Wal

    A couple of years ago we had Wim T. Schippers Peanut Butter Floor in the Boymans van Beuningen Museum. Which is a lot of peanut butter on a floor in a museum. Peant Butter is sticky, so no Duct Tape.

    Somebody ate a bit of the peanut butter, and it costed 50.000 euro’s to repair the damage, apparently.

    And not because peanut butter is very expensive over here.

  12. Yonason

    @Sander van der Wal

    I can’t help but want to see footprints through it, and tracks left exiting, …as part of the “art,” of course. With the right tracks, one could ensure drawing whole scout troupes and schools for their field trips.

    Just no jelly…

    How fast does a “work” like that appreciate/depreciate in value as a function of the financial profit/loss by the institution for the equivalent of rent of the room it’s displayed in? It’s prime real estate. It can’t be cheap? What keeps an outfit like that from going broke? Citizen tax dollars at work, perhaps? Oh yes, and don’t forget the liability insurance premiums, in the untoward event that a patron succumbs from a peanut allergy?

  13. vince

    Money Laundering – Art
    Charging for Money Laundering – Not Art

  14. C-Marie

    Well, what to do with too much of the green stuff … stuff bank account ….. buy yachts …. great houses ….. horses …. clothes ….. orrrr ….. “Art” as defined by those who set the standards for those in the public who want the standards set for them, who have way too much currency.

    I love the June Allyson, Janet Leigh, Margaret O’ Brien, and Elizabeth Taylor film version of Little Women. Watch it yearly, along with one or two others. Somehow evokes memories of security. The mother is loving and kind, as is the father who is off to war.

    As to “art”, to each their own, yet sorry for the wasted tax dollars when misused, anywhere. I like rocks that have been pounded by the ocean surf, displayed. And VVG works, in books that is, of course.

    Hoping the art of the Vatican Nativity Creche this year will be a lovely, simple representation of the Holy Family with Baby Jesus in the manger …… hope …. hope …. hope …. hope …

    God bless, C-Marie

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