The Mona Lisa effect

What struck me most about Berger’s article was its exploration of classical art from an age bygone.

That bulletproof case has a great impact on what’s considered fine art or junk. Moreso than Berger may even know.

And in a twist of events, I can say I’m in a place to talk about the matter. Not just because I took an art history class for a credit, but because I have seen that bulletproof case in person.

And let me tell you, the bulletproof case did nothing to make the Mona Lisa a grand work of art. In fact there is something small and simplistic about the famous work of art. It’s dwarfed by other works of art in the Louvre, yet it is the one that draws the biggest crowds.

Berger’s article brought me back to that time and the puzzling nature of the phenomenon, and upon seeing the Mona Lisa in person, I remember thinking “This is it? This is what everyone makes a big deal of?” I was disappointed I wasn’t in awe like the other visitors. I hadn’t even the patience to get a decent picture of the portrait, and was happy to abandon the endeavour and marvel at other works of art, that were much finer, in my opinion.

I was never entirely sure why I had this reaction, but Berger’s article brought up the excellent point of constant replications of art can devalue art.

Perhaps there is something grand and beautiful about the Mona Lisa, but seeing the image passed around so much, seeing so many edits and distortions makes the image into something familiar. Something we are so used to seeing that it is just another picture (sometimes even a meme) that we no longer remember what made it so great and worthy of sharing in the first place.

Replication and spreading of art is a good thing. It allows a wider audience to appreciate art, but when does it become so normalized that the value is lost?

What I believe is that bulletproof case reminded people of its value. People realized why the Mona Lisa is so ingrained in our society. While the effect was lost on me, perhaps remembering the value and beauty of the Mona Lisa is what attracted those crowds and made them push through for a picture.

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