As Miami continues to emerge as a serious art center, the city's infatuation with the colorful yet shallow work of pop artist Romero Britto continues to be a source of embarrassment and frustration for some. Usually that frustration emerges in derogatory jokes or blog comments, but an unknown vandal has taken it a step further.
A Britto sculpture of a beach ball that sits outside the Miami Shores Country Club off Biscayne Boulevard has been tagged, "Not art." We don't condone the crime, but it is guaranteed to spur more serious conversation and thought than any recent Britto work does.
We used to have an art history professor at UM who thought that the topic "What is art and what isn't?" was boring. She preferred asking, "But is it good art?" The problem with Britto is that everything he does is "good," in a way. It's all technically proficient (sometimes inhumanly so) and follows through on Britto's intention to a tee.
The thing is, Britto's intentions haven't been very artistic in a long while. He's a businessman. A visual commodities supplier. He whores his aesthetic out to any giant company with a check. He got his big break doing an ad for a vodka company. A challenge on an early season of Donald Trump's The Apprentice focused on selling Britto T-shirts. Britto's art is not even "Warholian." It's some post-Warhol, corporate-art nightmare.
The dude's not an artist. He's a businessman, and he's in the business of creating pieces for developers to plop in front of glorified strip malls, and for tasteless rich people to hang above their sofas. Those are his intentions, and, well, as evidenced by the profusion of his work that dots the city, he's pretty damn good at it.
Britto probably doesn't even get the same thrill out of creating as he once did. He hasn't grown as an artist or brought anything new to the table in years. He doesn't even supplement his corporate work with more worthy, ambitious stuff. It's all just one big neon-colored splooge. Hell, he has a team of assistants to do most it. But, hey, he drives a nice car and probably has a great condo. It's a trade-off.
Call it design. Call it décor. Don't call it art. So, yes, you're right, anonymous tagger.
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You're also wrong for doing it, though. Not only does that mar the method of actual artists who use graffiti (sometimes legally, sometimes technically not, but usually more respectfully) to get their message across, but also it's just plain disrespectful. It might not be art, but it's not fair game to be vandalized. That sets a pretty dangerous precedent. The guy who smashed Andres Serrano's Piss Christ didn't think it was "art" either. It's just not cool going around defacing other people's work because you don't like it.
Anyway, there are better ways to visually spark conversation about Britto's work than defacing it. Anyone remember the Britto-fied Abu Ghraib piece that popped up in Wynwood a few years ago?