The Lesson of the Mona Lisa

Totes art, yo.

Totes art, yo.

Found in every well-funded museum is at least one iconic or coveted piece of art. Something specifically added to boost attendance and raise the overall acclaim of the gallery or museum. It can be something as oddly specific as a Damien Hirst, as prolific as Chihuly-glass, or even as incensing (for some) as a Serrano. While each of these works can evoke something in both candid and experienced art fans a-like, none have had the sheer drawing force and demand as the Mona Lisa. Probably THE MOST ubiquitous work of all time. There are few other paintings as immediately recognizable or as commonly printed as the work of DaVinci.

And it is one of the least interesting works committed to canvas. It’s sometimes difficult to fathom the artist’s reaction if he were alive to see it today.

LDV: So my’a works have’a survived to this day? This is’a good. Is there’a one of’a my vast efforts that everyone’a likes’a the most?

ME: Well, yes. Of course.

LDV: Let’a me guess. It’s’a da first militarized vehicle? Perhaps’a my flying machine?

ME: Well, it’s one of your paintings.

LDV: Sure, of’a course. Perhaps’a my depiction of the’a last supper? Something divine?

ME: It’s your painting, Mona Lisa.

LDV: Huh? The girl? No no, that can’t be right.

ME: Oh wow, your disturbingly offensive accent went away.

LDV: Are you serious? Dude, her dad paid me like a couple hundred bucks and I turned that thing out in a day or two. She came back a few nights later… Totally hit that.

*We fist pump*

This surprisingly small work has stood for many years as a shrine to mediocrity.  People across the world travel to Paris to stare and photograph this one piece and simply stand in wonder. Not forgetting its meager historical significance as an extant example of a time from long before; it’s profoundly difficult to understand its appeal.

Having visited the Louvre during the winter, a time often described as Paris’ sexiest season, I was amazed by the crowd that waited in line for tickets when the museum opened. Yet, as I strolled around for the better part of the day, the crowd seemed to diminish throughout the different wings. To be fair, small statues of Charlemagne and ancient gods are likely not everyone’s bag. Needless to say, after several hours of wandering and taking pictures with a short stop at the café I found the crowds. Packing out the end of a hall where you can see several works, none that strangely don’t come to mind this instant. Why? Who could combat their memory’s rich remembrance of the titular piece, where, nearby a veritable SWARM of people stood amassed. But why?

Why is it that a painting containing no real grandeur of a woman of absolutely zero historical significance, other than sitting down for a painting, regarded as one the absolute, “must see(s)” of Paris? The Eiffel tower had fewer visitors that day. This work offers nothing save for the experience of being in a room with it. I’ve asked myself this question more than a handful of times and the answer always seems to remain that as a species, we have a great love of mediocrity.

It’s evident by the speed with which we allow for it in our everyday lives, out of comfort and ease. Where do you want to eat? Where ever’s fine. What do you want to watch? Whatever’s on. In this case, you can take your pick of shows like: Cupcake Wars, Two and a Half Men, or Big Bang Theory. Why not fill your free time with something worth while? I know that sounds like a lot of work and that’s why these types of shows exist. It also explains why Transformers 4 gets more asses in seats than almost any other summer movie. Who really wants to be using their brain while they enjoy themselves? The two are completely exclusive notions. Why look at a painting that can inspire and that you’ve never seen before when you can stare at one you see everywhere?

The vast bulk of entertainment, whether it be movies, music, or television is mindless. Each example that shines as popular money makers have a spit and polish of glamour and sex-appeal and offer little else. Connecting that notion to the Mona Lisa is absurd, obviously. We consume the easiest to consume. Appreciating art isn’t always easy, sometimes it requires thought and analysis or the ability to see how you respond to it and why… But that sounds so hard, so let’s go stare at mediocrity. Bazinga! (sp? oh who cares)