1,000 Words: The death of Mona Lisa

Thanks to Scott Reyburn, of the New York Times, today’s 1,000 Words comes with words.

AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File

In his essay today, Reyburn says the Mona Lisa has ceased to exist as a work of art, imprisoned by its reputation as the greatest work of art in history. It is a photo op now, he writes.

Most of the people crowded around it in its Paris museum now merely take pictures of it, and this is the way the digital generation experiences art.

The goal is not so much to experience the art as it is to document that you were there.

The value of art is reduced by the ability to reproduce it, he says.

“It’s very underwhelming. It’s small and dark,” Katie Qian, 33, an engineer from Salt Lake City, said after seeing the “Mona Lisa” for the second time in her life.

Christie’s, by contrast, offered viewers a quasi-religious experience at the pre-auction viewing of the much-restored panel painting “Salvator Mundi,” which had recently, not incontrovertibly, been re-attributed to Leonardo. The auction house, with the help of the advertising agency Droga5, promoted what it called “The Last da Vinci” with a video of people moved to tears by the painting. It went on to sell for an all-time high of $450.3 million.

“The bogus religiosity which now surrounds original works of art,” Mr. Berger wrote in “Ways of Seeing,” “is ultimately dependent on their market value” and “has become the substitute for what paintings lost when the camera made them reproducible.”