The Mona Lisa Curse
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The Mona Lisa Curse

2008, Art and Artists  -   54 Comments
Ratings: 8.04/10 from 46 users.

The Mona Lisa CurseThe Mona Lisa Curse is a Grierson award-winning polemic documentary by art critic Robert Hughes that examines how the world's most famous painting came to influence the art world.

With his trademark style, Hughes explores how museums, the production of art and the way we experience it have radically changed in the last 50 years, telling the story of the rise of contemporary art and looking back over a life spent talking and writing about the art he loves, and loathes.

In these postmodern days it has been said that there is no more passé a vocation than that of the professional art critic. Perceived as the gate keeper for opinions regarding art and culture, the art critic has supposedly been rendered obsolete by an ever expanding pluralism in the art world, where all practices and disciplines are purported to be equal and valid.

Robert Hughes, however, is one art critic who has delivered a message that must not be ignored.

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8 years ago

Very good programme

I think he is wrong in his assumption that art as an investment commodity is new, though. This has been the case at least since the renaissance. Art has always been the domain of the rich, a tool to store wealth, stroke egos, and generally show off. And being rich has never meant you necessarily have a clue about the artistic importance of what you are buying.

It is only because of patronage that we remember most of the artists of the past that are now remembered. The wealthy have always dictated which artists get remembered, and through this have written art history. We can only decide which artists were great and important from those few who were chosen on the whims of the wealthy to have their work survive and be preserved.

But interesting, anyway. Modern consumer culture is taking the matter down different roads, and further down them, than previously.

9 years ago

The dismay is that , people who are in no way related to art is in much a position to critic and value which are in master pieces. That's why everything tangible is now an art!!!

9 years ago

Fantastic doco long live Robert Hughes!!

Shortfilmcity .
9 years ago

This art that Robert hates so much does actually tell us about the world we live in.

A neo-capitalist realm where everything is determined by what someone is prepared to pay for it.

It isn't art that has lost its critical capacity, sadly, it is the rest of the world that is in danger of losing its humanity.

10 years ago

I hope that not all art critics and dealers suck. My personal experience; one had no idea what he talked about when talking about a painting; the other took a piece of my art to sell, and i never got it back. However, to let that, or the art world in general (as described in this great movie) ruin one's own experience of art, as a viewer, or artist would be ridiculous.

One other thing I see as ridiculous are statements that a certain kind of art is passe or not worthwhile; e.g. figurative vs abstract. It's like saying rock or hip hop, or classical, is not worthwhile. There are pretenders in all genres, as well as those whom are genuinely inspired.

btw. I like that Robert Hughes pointed out that Andy Warhol was just making cheap copies of Robert Rauschenberg's work.

Wes Handrow
10 years ago

Thank you for this insightful program, most of what passes as Art is not art but marketing. To put it very bluntly most of what is out there is crap, and I say this someone who makes art. I remember sitting in a multi-week seminar on art as business and the drum beat was all self promotion. Production values, technical ability and aesthetics were barely mentioned. The idea of asking is it good was put down, all that mattered was can it be said to be new. Read the ubiquitous artist statements are some of the largest piles of BS out there, my own puts it very plainly, "If you don't see the message or the idea then it isn't there".

10 years ago

Yes, Michael Hughes is very insightful. God is not dead it is Art that is dead. For those of us who loved art for art's sake this is quite a tragedy

10 years ago

Personal attacks aside, i think a major point that is being missed in this +/- conversation is that art is an historic cultural conversation. patrons have paid the way of creative people in order to facilitate a creative expression that wealth is not capable of. In modern art there is no history. the evidence that museums have become add agencies for a hyper corporate trade of fashionable things should make it clear that there is something lost in the tradition of appreciating art in its context. In 2002 just after the US invaded Iraq what was the first thing that got looted?

10 years ago

andy warhol was not an artist he just took pictures and mixed up the colors real artists have talent and a real vision leonardo da vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli.van gogh, Rembrandt,and artists like that not warhol and Picasso

11 years ago

The makers have done pretty much all they can to wipe this off the web but if you search youtube you'll find it in english -- spanish subtitled as 'la maldicion mona lisa' more or less, and divided into 6 eps.

Hughes is interesting up to that point from which it becomes more interesting to listen to your county town taxi driver drag you through his pretty standard version of setting the world to rights. He says that if art doesn't reflect the world supplying a critique then it has no place and that is i think where he falls under his own juggernaut. Hirst's derided diamond skull is nothing if not a wry, um, reflection of precisely the way things are just now. It also succeeds in a spectacular transformation of the archetypal dread-form with a simplicity of conceptualisation well beyond, well, my synapses at least. And it doesn't lack for a multi-level wit or even, shucks, beauty, either. If mankind's ascent is typified by an increasing (self) consciousness (to such point that it is just t h a t close to being able to replicate life itself -- from inert chemicals) then it would appear as only an extension of the math that representation and reality, media and (hate to be dragging ths one out) message should fuse into one. When we start abandoning the flesh entirely to live as uploads in cyber space oh deary me what's Rob going to say then? Ultimately value judgements of this sort don't help and just come over as reactionary. But such is the essential nature of the critic. Those doing the moving/shaking are living the very postest post-everything existence they darling well can and comparisons between now and the days when art was a virgin are about as interesting to that new super-financialised elite as the so recent formative eruptions of WW1, WW2 and the Cold War might appear to a strictly forward-faeceing twittering twattering faece-book mass, if you'll forgive all the erm, pun. To describe A.Warhol as 'stupid' is just well uh, stupid and that's where Robert takes his curmudgeon's stance over the top and loses a lot of cred, i feel. Mr Hughes is taking his appeal to the as yet unsickened and still taste-ful sensical 'we', ie, the vanishing middle class, to which personally I don't belong, perhaps i ought to say. I don't have a degree in phenomenology but I do strongly suspect that in these things, as in all things "what it is is what it is". Art will ever continue to amaze and oft times transport. The how, amoral and transcendent, is of minor, and major importance.

Darius Schello
11 years ago

mona lisa is a lesbo

Terry Brady
11 years ago

Wow, I just read all these comments, as an artist, I see that ignorance and just plain blindness is abundent in America, Kudo to the-Gland, around 1980-85 art slammed into a wall and just every so often since, few have been bold enough to be original, the rest are just a rehash for lack of a better word. Hughs hits it on it's ugly head, truth is crual and Worhol is dead, the checkbook must not rule, because it is not knowledge it seeks, it is posession and that is all. "When Money Speaks,Art Goes Silent", it is needed sure, but it is not the authority, it will be so nice when this me me me generation matures enough to realize it has been played like a fiddle, then and only then will beauty and meaning capture it's imagination and make it see through the noise and superfluous flummery to the other side where reason, talent and the hunger to push forward a language of human expression, or perhaps pots and pans in negative is enough for them or a balloon tied into a dog, the way I see it, the clown at the park already made me one of those when I was little.

11 years ago

People who dislike this insightful documentary probably don't have the talent to care.

11 years ago


11 years ago

Failure to accept change often results in sour grapes.

12 years ago

documental removed :(

12 years ago

We need art critics more now than ever but not one that is a tyrant. Art changes just like everything else in the universe. It must be difficult for a person entrenched with fond memories of a time past to be objective about the current scene. Maybe it's harder to be a critic now and receive the adoration and fear a critic received in the 50's or 60's. Hopefully most art lovers have been educated enough through today's technology to have a better view and appreciation of today's entire art scene.

12 years ago

Be careful what you criticize ... was Warhol predicting a vapid empty culture ... or was he acknowledging that it existed. If the later is true, then he brilliantly captured the essence of the emptiness.

Nothing more pathetic than an old art critic lamenting the demise of his pompous profession. There is hardly a single painting that some critic doesn't hate ... so there is no right or wrong ... just opinions, no more valuable than any other. A good critic is an educator, there are few critics who are. Money/goods/barter have controlled the art world since cave drawings. A few made money and most starved. Van Gogh's art didn't suddenly become visionary when he died ... and he was roasted by the critics of the day ... so just how good are critics?

12 years ago

Churchill said one enduring phrase: "Not enough art done by too many".

Now, Warhol in my eyes is perfect - a talentless, monotonous retard - no wonder the masses loved him. His work is the visual sibling of pop music - monotonous, dull, synthesised, soulless.

"Art" lacking soul is the demise; a reflection of the overall state of human. Sad.

Anthony No.2!
12 years ago

In a superficial world we should expect superficial art. Since art is an expression of reality in which those who create it live. I see great Art all around me even in the most humdrum of objects, however those with enormous fortunes must burn their money on something.

They can take their pretensions nonsense to the grave with them for all I care. If they find value in bejewelled human remains or grotesque dissected creatures; Then I imagine that they are profoundly sick people.

I think they buy the Art they are entitled to. So they should enjoy it.

12 years ago

Hello! Could someone put wonderful series on architecture called "Dan Cruickshank's Adventures in Architecture"? I have seen only a couple of episodes on tv but I don't know where to find them on the web.

12 years ago

'Andy warhol was one of the stupidest people I've ever met.'

Thankyou. At last someone is willing to say it out loud. Half the celebrated art of the last 50 years is just a big steaming pile propped up by it's status as a tradable commodity. The art market has totally distorted the western art world to the point where people like tracy emin and damien hirst are taken seriously where in reality people should be bursting out laughing when they see the self regarding, pompous, fatuous, dimwitted, sensationalist pr stunts that we are meant to believe is the pinnacle of creativity.

The corrupting power of greed. Pure and simple. Whatever fancy language or even more contorted ideas are used to mask it, that's all it is.

Ron Burgundy
12 years ago

There should be a limit to prices on art just like there should be a limit on salaries for pro Atheletes, both things cheapen themselves by being so ridiculously overpriced.The same sort of thing happens with Music and Acting, to make a living at all is only for a few elites.

Arnold Vinette
12 years ago

I watched this documentary about halfway through before I started feeling sorry for art critic Robert Hughes and his take on art be it modern, old fashioned or whatever.

The Mona Lisa curse in his eyes is how huge sums of money have distorted the art world he loves over the past 50 years.

Why has this happened?

Because this is the only art world that art critic Robert Hughes knows.

He surrounds himself with artists who love to create artwork on a grandiose scale for grandiose prices.

I suggest that art critic Robert Hughes move away from New York City and go live in Volgodonsk, Russia.

It will help him to open his eyes again to the purity and beauty of art created by those who love to create art for the simple passion of doing so.

For the last four years I have worked with the art teachers and kids from Volgodonsk, Russia.

Volgodonsk, Russia if you have never heard of it is one of the largest cities in Russia for creative artwork.

There are more art teachers per student in Volgodonsk, Russia than any where else in the world.

It is the culture in Volgodonsk, Russia to encourage the arts in their students in pre-school and to continue it until the end of high school.

Art schools and after art schools are 90% funded by the city meaning that taking art classes is very affordable for all the kids in the city.

The art that comes out of these schools is absolutely incredible.

The kids throughout Volgodonsk, Russia are extremely talented.

Why do the kids in Volgodonsk love to create artwork so much?

Because it is encouraged and it is fun.

I stumbled on Volgodonsk, Russia quite by accident after I finished sponsoring an art program in Orshanka, Russia.

The public school in Orshanka Russia had very few funds for a new school playground and so I had the brilliant idea to sponsor the school kids to draw me enough artwork to make an “Orshanka Kids Art Album eBook – Playground Dreaming”.

The goal was to get enough pieces of artwork to make the eBook and sell it to raise money for a new school playground.

The project was a complete success and this got the attention of the art teachers in Volgodonsk.

They loved the idea and contributed several hundred pieces of artwork for their own “Volgodonsk Kids Art Album eBooks”. Four hundred “Volgodonsk Kids Art Album eBooks” were created raising money for a new school playground.

Then the kids drew even more artwork to honor the newly elected President Barack Obama and his family in November 2008.

It was the first time in history that Russian school students had honored an American President with their artwork. Four “Presidential Kids Art Album eBooks” were created to honor President Barack Obama. The first “Presidential Kids Art Album eBooks” in American history. You can find these at the Smithsonian Institute Presidential Art Archives.

Copies of the “Presidential Kids Art Album eBooks”were also sent to President Barack Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The result was a beginning of new friendship between President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that would improve American – Russian politics like never before.

Now I am in Ottawa, Canada and working with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon, Honourable Beverly J Oda Minister of International Co-operation for (CIDA) and indirectly with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on one of the worlds largest art projects to date.

The Canadian and Russian government are working together on a $407.61 million dollar art project that will sponsor the art programs at 500 Russian public schools for a period of 5 years. The art work being commissioned from these 500 Russian public schools will be on three principal themes.

1. What do the kids love about their community?
2. What do the kids love about their city?
3. What do the kids love about their country of Russia?

The created Russian student artwork will then be sent to Ottawa, Canada where it is to be scanned and assembled into a series of “Russian Kids Art Album eBooks” to be distributed throughout the Canadian and American public school systems.

The purpose of this project is to better educate Canadian and American kids and their families about modern Russia, their lifestyle, culture, history, traditions and so forth using the artwork from the kids themselves.

The “Russian Kids Art Album eBook Project” is a pilot project for a future “Canadian Kids Art Album eBook Project” and “American Kids Art Album eBook Project” that will be sent over to Russian public schools in subsequent years.

Some of the most wonderful artwork in the world can found at your public schools, but the kids need to be encouraged to make it. Currently this is a very low priority in both Canada and the United States. However it will be changing with the Russian kids in Volgodonsk leading the way.

The best artwork in the world cannot be found in the art galleries and it is definitely not sold for hundreds of millions of dollars. It can however be found in all the public schools in Volgodonsk, Russia. (I am just biased though because I work so closely with the schools.)

At the moment there is a huge Russian kids art project in development that will bring two very different cultures a world apart together. The purpose is to educate North American kids and their families about modern Russia using the artwork drawn by the Russian kids themselves.

The reward for the 500 participating Russian public schools will be their very own published “Russian Kids Art Album eBooks” promoting what is best about their community, city and country of Russia, in addition to getting a brand new $100,000 school playground for the students to play on.

This project is only possible because of the commitment and dedication of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon, Honourable Beverly J Oda Minister of International Co-operation for (CIDA), Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

This is the future of modern art and it is happening right now in Ottawa, Canada and 500 public schools across Russia.

The Mona Lisa Curse is not a curse at all for those who really love and appreciate art. They just need to know where to look. And they really need a passion for art, both to observe it and inspire its creation for a bigger cause. You will not find a passion for art at a multimillion dollar art gallery. However you may find a passion for art at your local public school and very likely at your local public school in Russia and most definitely in the art schools in Volgodonsk, Russia!!

I urge art critic Robert Hughes to get out of New York and travel around Russia for a while. Sponsor a school art program and reward the kids with new art supplies or a new playground. It will once again inspire him about the world of art and it is not in the art gallery.

Arnold Vinette
Ottawa, Canada

12 years ago

I think we might be missing this guys point entirely. He seems to me to be saying that art is no longer decided to be art on the basis of what it expresses or how well it expresses it. Leonardo's work does owe something to those that made it possible, but those that made it possible did not influence the way it was recieved. Besides, these guys don't make art possible, they go out and invest in some artist and then atempt to persuade the world to think his or her work is brilliant by having it displayed in certain ways and putting the right price tag on it (manipulating opinions). They arrange posh exhibits that are "by invitation only" so as to ensure only the richest and most trendy of peoples will be there, and as a result the art displayed there gains value by association instead of standing on its own merits and being judged according to its worth as true art. Museums nor any other medium of display should distract from the appreciation of the art that is exhibited there, this is why he objects to the sensationalized cheap displays many museums have resorted to. He also objects to museums becoming part of the game and lending there prestige to commercial interests. Art, true art, should stand on its own and need no neon lights or manipulation of the market to be worth what ever it is worth.

That said, I suppose much of the same could be said about the art critics job. They attempt to tell us what a piece is worth or whether it is real art or brilliant art. The present system, while much more commercial and obvious, is an extension of this same attittude. Its aim is different though, it aims to make profit were the art critic aimed to guide the perception of what good art is. At least the critic does what he does from the place of wanting to make art better, according to his opinion. The commercial interest in art seeks to place value on something that can not be valued in dollars and cents, and cares nothing for the true expression of art or its continued evolution.

12 years ago

This is self indulgent, indignant ranting tripe is the product of one of the most inflated egos on the planet.

12 years ago

interesting old man, a bit self indulgent. Or at least the documentary crew worked that way! But still, he ask the fundamental. But i think he gets it wrong a little bit. The new market based Art of the past 48 year is a reflexions of the society we live in. Monetary market based society were rich peoples make money just because they are rich peoples. Nobody make anything anymore. They just make money. Damien Hirst is for me one the most brilliant example of the monetary market based UNIVERSE that we endure. And on the contrary, he is a very philosophical artist that truly represented the corrupted nature of our time. An is 15 million $ skull is a bitter cynical middle finger directed to us and them ( the market based peoples). And he is playing the game well. Of course if you have a corrupted marxist point of view you should think he's a completed fraud. I do too, and that's why it's brilliant. We are corrupted, 3/4 of the peoples living on this planet are in poverty and we have highly educated young adults who are wasting 9/10 of their time arguing about superficial subject as who's who, is this musician out, is this pair of shoes still in style, big framed glass and 80's style haircut. And by the way is your coffee bean more sustainable then mine. We are all corrupted. An laughing all the way down!

12 years ago

Robert Hughes has a preference over a certain kind of institution over another: quite simply, the rather have the museum as the presiding entity, instead of corporations, because he fears art being a spectacle to be morally inferior.

What a pompous gentleman he is.

A common man that does not have the awareness not to see the Mona Lisa simply as a spectacle is what he is, a simple minded person as in the person cannot make meaning of that art to begin with. It is not up to the media to be a soap box for american blue collar workers to appreciate mona lisa as it should. If Americans want colorful soup cans as art, so be it and that is hard to understand either.

There are many seeminly important points he makes, but all of them in my view don't promote any change. Complain of the glories of past is highly ineficient. There are ways to get smaller corporations to fund art museums in not so important places for example, ways to display the infinite superior number of artists that exist today compared to the 60s, an action site for enw artists...or what have you...

12 years ago

When you think about his argument it is quite polarised between the market value of art and its existential quality. Is art supposed to enlighten the viewer to ponder upon the world around them in a way they would not normally do – a subjective experience – or is it as he suggests something that is becoming vulgarised by its economic value? I would fall on his side of the street with regards to art losing its intrinsic value of a reflective experience for the viewer, to becoming something that has been contaminated by the objective nature of capitalism – instant gratification. In my opinion ideology can become a motivation for artists to be inspired; of course the society you live in has an effect on how you interpret the world around you. However, crucially, great art is the individual breaking free from this to stamp their own interpretation of how they view the world around them into their work. In other words, capitalism should be used by artists as a creative force, and not something that controls what and how they create their work. He is right when he suggests that the economic value of a piece does not necessarily mean it is a magnificent artwork. Call me old fashioned but I agree with this guy.

12 years ago

When an artist creates a totally new way of expression, in his/her instant of creation not one second was inspired by money. Many artist will tell you that they were taken by a force and for those moments they completely forgot about the world surrounding them, similar to a woman giving birth in a natural way.

If the world wants to turn that creating into a piece of business, then be it. Art will continue to seep through from under into the hands of many artists. Because art is more than physical it is spiritual.

Osho says: "True creativity arises from a union with the divine, with the mystical and the unknowable. The important is to be open to what wants to be expressed through you. Then it is both a joy for the creator and a blessing to others."

12 years ago

Im sorry, but I completely disagree with this presenter, Art has always and always will be a form of expression that goes far beyond the preconceptions of the romantic ideas of a 70 year old writer who has never expressed his ideas in a visual way, as Leonardo Da Vinchi has. When you create a work of art, its medium is visual full stop. What ever economists, critics or oligards might make of it, what ever way they choose to interpret this visual communication, its part of a medium which has changed and evolved over the past 200 years. And no one person can say what it should be and have the right to determine its meaning. Hence the beauty of art. If progress makes people use art as a commodity, and more of us get involved in its magic, its history and its preservation then the aim justifies the means. Lets not forget that for a great deal of time, Art has had its patrons which themselves had their motives, from the church, to kings, to bankers. In the end the great irony of this documentary is that the very work of art: The Mona Lisa, would have not come to being without Leonardos great patrons: The Meddicci - The first truly modern bankers.

12 years ago

I adore the "Mona Lisa" my favorite self portrait. :-) I can't wait to see this Doc.

12 years ago

awsome documentary, makes you think about the world that we are living in once more.its just sad that we let those people change the meaning of true art.

p.s i think he made Magrabi look quite stupid with his questions :)

12 years ago

Instead of spending all that money on art we should be feeding the hungry people of the world.

12 years ago

I don't see how this is a recent thing...The rich(governments, religions, monarchies) have always controlled art and this association put a price tag on it.

12 years ago

The author is miss guided...governments try to make money look fancy..and bonds etc.

Trade it for real!

The price for art shows how much fake money is in circulation.

thank the fed and their printing press.

new goo
12 years ago

What! art with no profit ? oh pls , grow up. money has fuel the art world for centuries.

12 years ago

I totally get what this guy is saying about how the price seems to take away our individual judgements and make them for us. I have often looked at some expensive peice of modern art held in high esteem and thought, "This looks like pure b.s. to me." But I never wanted to express that opinion as I also thought, "...well maybe I am just not deep enough or sophisticated enough to get it." I made the mistake of thinking that if the so called art experts think it is worth this much it must say something to someone. In reality it was just as I thought, pure b.s. inflated by a bunch of people that stand to make a profit from its success. Lets face it religion, health care, our own children, art- there is nothing man will not exploit for the almighty dollar; no ideology, philosophy, or symbol sacred enough to elude comercial usery. A tragedy indeed!!

12 years ago

yet another example of how the power elite corrupt all for their God ,, PROFIT ...

truly a tragedy for humanity ..