The futile pursuit of good taste

What is good taste? And who decides? It is a question that I discussed last weekend with the artist and designer Harry Nuriev, the director of the museum Melissa Chiu and the president of Net-a-Porter Alison Loehnis: three arbiters of style. But only real cooperation we can arrive In this case, there are no rules.

Until about 20 years ago there was no clear consensus about what happened carefully. In a world where opinion is dictated by a small group of voices, the number of “big” art collectors is limited to the lower market and the major markets are considered to be Paris, London and New York, there was an easy consensus about the type of furniture one should buy. presence, the type of bag you carry or the art you hang on your walls.

Events were cyclical and changing – but the things that represented “good taste” remained fixed in people’s minds. If your furniture was Le Corbusier, you owned Giacometti, or you carried an Hermès Birkin bag, you were among the elite whose taste was coveted and admired. Today, however, taste has become more and more formal. Its control is unclear. The Internet has made everyone a challenger, new markets have spread outside of traditional areas and collaboration has been disrupted.

Where once good taste was considered a privilege and an education, today’s tastemakers are a very curious crowd. And the things that seem to measure our culture are as little a result of self-evident knowledge as they are of collective, Internet-fed, narrow-mindedness.

Nuriev was born in Russia: earlier this month he worked with culinary studio We Are Ona to create a well-talked-about restaurant in New York. When he’s not creating events in one of the most famous places in the world, he creates eiderdowns from old boxer shorts and colorful pictures with trompe l’oeil shapes to look like molds: he’s currently smashing Evian plastic bottles to create a chandelier good. His work crosses the line between the absurd and the extravagant and the sophisticated and the destructive, but his bold vision of the “transformer” has made him one of the most sought-after designers today.

© Julien Lienard

When asked what it tastes like, he shrugs and says he doesn’t know. But he knows his clients want to work with him because they feel he represents the kind of voice they want to create.

“Good taste” has become democratized. Not to mention politics: many houses of all kinds are in the middle of major rehangs to try to show the works of women, non-white or foreign whose works have been ignored until now. When Chiu, the Asia-Australian director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, began working as a specialist in Asian art, he was dismissed as non-existent. For connoisseurs, Asian art meant antique porcelains and dynastic swag. It was only with the emergence of the new consumer market, and the Internet, that that attitude changed. Sometimes, he argues, artists who hope to live a long life must follow a specific career path. Today, some of the most highly collected artists – those who sell for millions on the market – have never had a single work displayed in a museum.

Is good taste, then, something natural and elevated, or am I just hitting a certain trend? Despite the proliferation of influencers, click culture and social media, some things still stand out as “cool” every time. In fashion, for example, we are at risk of “hidden wealth”, where logos are silent, high-quality fabrics and at the moment it is considered that the height of chic is covered in beige colors.

But is this good taste or “safe taste” – trying to hide his wealth while trying to look good? Indeed the arguments of “good” taste must have verve and expression; That’s what I look for when choosing The Aesthetes you see in FT Weekend’s HTSI magazine.

What about the Old Masters? One would think that some things should exceed all metrics with their expertise and beauty, but even the most respected of artists can become weak, dusty and unloved. Look at Vermeer, currently the subject of a very popular show in the world at the Rijksmuseum, but his paintings, now considered masterpieces, could not attract attention for almost 200 years.

Good taste was an expression of privilege and tradition – ruled and controlled by the elite. But the majesty of holy men, creative men are now being reorganized to reflect different wisdom. Most importantly, I think, good taste should not be simple: it should be bold, bold and original. It must dare to defy convention, to provoke but ultimately to lie.

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