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Greatness and worth



African art is great art. European art is great art. They are both forms of art. That is something they share. As an exercise in a particular skill they might be compared so that the one be found wanting relative to the other. But to let that prove the supremacy of one over the other is to weaken your own position. Your appreciation is thus narrowed to that particular trick or skill. The greatness of each work of art lies not in any one skill or indeed in its tension with other works of art.

Greatness lies in our relationship with a work. It is the product of our carefully constructed finding. And a good opinion, a careful opinion, a well-reasoned position can be had on the basis of any quality. It is people who make things great. Descriptive comparisons, the ways two works can be made to talk to each other, are far more interesting than any pronouncement on their relative worth. Moreover, a value which improves only when the value of something else diminishes is a choice in the way we value things. We could choose to do things differently.



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