“Now the world is much more important than art.” MICHELANGELO ANTONIONI on the function of art, 1969

Michelangelo Antonioni, 1974

Michelangelo Antonioni, 1974

CHARLES SAMUELS: In an interview I had with John Updike, he said something that fascinated me: “Being an artist is dangerous because it allows one to turn one’s pain too quickly to profit.”

MICHELANGELO ANTONIONI: I couldn’t use that phrase today—”being an artist”—as if that were something exceptional. And if somebody transmutes his pain into profit, very good. I find that the most wonderful way to kill pain.

Why do you say “today”? Could you have used the phrase “being an artist” in some other period? 

Yes, of course. I think that during the Renaissance everything was influenced by art. Now the world is so much more important than art that I can no longer imagine a future artistic function.

But today, what is the function?

I don’t know.

You don’t know? 

Do you?

Yes. 

Then tell me.

You want me to tell you what the function of art is!

You can read the full transcription of the interview here

Art 128
Charles Samuels
Film 16
Michelangelo Antonioni