A Thought Experiment

I’ve had a little thought experiment I’ve done since college. Imagine Michelangelo were brought back to life, in his prime, right now. He is given as much time as he needs to study all of the art and all of the artists who have come after him. At the end of his studies, he starts to create new works of art, but even after studying he chooses to create new works in the high Renaissance style. How would the art world react?

I’ve always suspected that the art world would not react well. At best, they would call the new Michelangelos well executed, but old fashioned. I may be cynical, but if reincarnated Michelangelo carved a Solomon as a companion to David, I can’t imagine people would flock to Italy to see it.

The main reason I like the thought experiment is it helps me tease out what people are reacting to when they react to a piece of art. In an ideal world, people would only react to aesthetic qualities, but that is clearly not the case. Age, novelty, other people’s reactions, and marketing (Could those be aesthetic qualities?) all play a role in how people react to art. I go back and forth on whether that’s good or bad or neutral.

This is just something I do to pass the time in a pleasant way. I thought others might find it pleasant too, so I’m sharing. I chose Michelangelo because I was taking a class on Michelangelo’s influence on Mannerism at the time. It would work with anyone from Shakespeare to Bach to Hitchcock. Pick your favorite and let your mind go.

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