Saving Grace

In: Religion Topics

Submitted By camelankles
Words 639
Pages 3
London art fair on 16 October 2013. Photograh: Oli Scarff/Getty Images
I was one of those idiots who passed by the Banksy stall in Central Park last weekend. Like everyone else, I presumed the look-a-like canvasses to be fakes. At $60 a pop, how could they be otherwise? Except they weren't. It was another one of those now-you-see-me-now-you-don't Banksy tricks. Had I known better, I would have been thousands of dollars up. And that, I suppose, was Banksy's point: modern art is all about the dollars, something to discuss seriously with your financial adviser.
I wasn't kicking myself because I missed out on an affordable Banksy. I was kicking myself because I missed out on a whopping profit. And seeing all those flash silver cars from Frieze art fair chauffeuring VIPs around London to yet another champagne reception, one can readily see his point. Contemporary art has become the purest expression of modern capitalism, embodying that irritating amoral dictum: something is worth what someone is prepared to pay for it.
Over at Tate Britain, they are staging an exhibition of British iconoclasm. Beginning at the Reformation, the exhibition tells the story of art under attack, of smashed statues and defaced paintings. Originally, of course, iconoclasm was a religious phenomenon. Abraham's father, Terah, was an idol-maker from Ur. One day Terah left the young Abraham in charge of his shop, whereupon he smashed all the idols with a stick. "It was terrible," Abraham explained to his father. "The small idols got hungry and they started fighting for food and finally the large idol got angry and broke them into pieces." Terah didn't believe him. "Idols don't get hungry, they don't get angry, they don't speak – they're just idols." Abraham smiled, knowingly. "Then why do you worship them?" he replied. This famous Jewish midrash is not in the Bible, but explains something of the…...

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