Ars gratia artis–up to a point

I just went to a concert put on by a musician who lives in the neighborhood that put me in mind of a comment I made a while back on a William Wegman exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum:

He has loads of talent and industry, he seems like a perfectly normal guy, and his stuff is very amusing, but I wish he had something to do with his gifts other than screw around.

The concert featured weird instruments, weird uses of normal instruments, and odd variations on classical and vernacular pieces, presented by someone with a multidimensional talent for composition and performance. It wasn’t clear what it was for, though.

Dunno if others have the same reaction to much recent art. The last time my wife and I went to the Museum of Modern Art, which has one of the great collections of 20th century art, it seemed there was lots of talent and novel ideas and techniques that were supposed to point to the art of the future, which was expected to be world-transforming in some unprecedented way. It never came to anything, so today it seems we get the same experimentation without the expectations.

Calling my knowledge of these things fragmentary would exaggerate its extent, though. There are obviously some recent artistic works, like the Dekalog, that use artistry in a way that engages human concerns. Do people have other shining examples?

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