The idea that creating contemporary art is like exposing archaeological artefacts is nice but false. Archaeologists are more like curators than artistsby Nancy Hynes / May 20, 2003 / Leave a comment
Published in May 2003 issue of Prospect Magazine
Book: Figuring It Out
Author: Colin Renfrew
Price: Thames & Hudson, ?32
Many scientists like to show that they appreciate art; some may even think of themselves as artists. But they rarely admit that a work of art could have anything to teach them about their field of study. Colin Renfrew is different. In his book “Figuring it Out”, he claims that looking at contemporary art is similar to looking at a newly dug-up artefact, and that the processes that lie behind the creation and interpretation of contemporary art can illuminate the interpretation of ancient artefacts and our understanding of the human mind. Visitors at a modern art gallery, he says, face the same challenge as archaeologists-what does it mean? In what context could it make sense? What was the person who made this thinking?
The book offers an engaging tour of ideas and images from the Renfrew oeuvre, ranging from his early work on prehistoric Greek Cycladic figures to his current concern with looting from archaeological sites. Along the way, he admires work from many prominent artists, including Antony Gormley, Richard Long and William Turnbull, whose works were exhibited by Jesus College, Cambridge, while Renfrew was Master.