Accept no substitute


Vermeer's Milkmaid, detail

Vermeer’s Milkmaid, detail

Alain de Botton tweeted a link to this essay a few days ago, and it explores how reproductions are nearly as good as the original work. Clearly it was written by someone who doesn’t paint, but it’s the sort of thinking Warhol would have loved. I loved the assertion that we know what novels “are for.” What was Remembrance of Things Past “for”, exactly? It’s like asking what life is “for.” As I learned again recently at the National Academy Museum in Manhattan, seeing an actual Welliver (more like standing inside it) after seeing his paintings only in reproduction is like actually kissing someone after doing video calls with them for thirty years. You can learn nearly as much about who a person is from a distance, compared with being in the same room with him or her, if all you want is information and amusement. But contrary what the movie Her suggested, it just isn’t equal to what’s conveyed in a simple kiss. Original paintings are one of the few genuinely scarce things left in a world of generic information and freely exchanged music files: which themselves can be degraded copies of what used to be rich analog vinyl recordings.

Sorry, Internet. Deal with it.

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