All art is quite useless.
Once again, the Supreme Turkmen is right, giving voice to some of the same misgivings I felt when I learned that "Pearls Before Breakfast" won a Pulitzer.
Weingarten set this up like an experiment—how much will you pay to hear a world-famous classical musician if you aren't told he's a world-famous classical musician?
But the experiment trades on a second variable, too, though Weingarten doesn't recognize it: How much would you pay, etc. etc., during your rush-hour commute as opposed to during your after-dinner hour in which you enjoy leisurely pursuits?
Why, nothing at all, because you're on your way to work, and you like to think about the coming day or you like to read the news, because you don't like art before you've had coffee, because you're running late, because you hate it when people are standing around obstructing your perfect route to the metro, because you don't like sounds in the morning...
All very true. The piece is basically a high-falutin' version of "Jaywalking," that cheap laff comedy bit that Leno does on his show where he wanders around the streets looking for people who don't know that George Washington was the first POTUS. Here's a critical similarity: the "joke," of course, depends on the audience knowing the answers to the questions that the rubes in the street don't know. To appreciate the Weingarten piece, you need to be aware of the fact that ideally, people should be able to recognize the violinist's talent. So the whole thing doesn't really prove that Washingtonians are coarse. Where Kriston says that Weingarten is after a thesis of "How much would you pay," he really means that the thesis is "how much did they pay." The article is simply a valentine for the audience, who are allowed to feel smart and superior. When you think about it, the success of the article only demonstrates that the experiment backfired.
This is why i categorically reject Nikolas Schiller's comment about how Weingarten's piece says something about "art appreciation." It takes plenty of "art appreciation" to even grok Weingarten's premise. It also takes the appropriate time and space to read and absorb Weingarten's piece. If the violinist were afforded the same luxury Weingarten claims for himself, more people would have been able to appreciate the "art."
And that's the big flaw that Kriston identifies with the piece: the author more or less gamed the outcome to fit his premise. That's the long and the short of it. I hate to get quantum on y'all, but when you remove a violin virtuoso from a concert hall and stick him in a Metro station, the nature and the value of the art changes. Weingarten (and Schiller) seem to think that absolute talent should impress absolutely. But if The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay falls on my head from a very great height, it's just going to hurt. And if the cast of August: Osage County slip into my bedroom tonight at 4am and commence a performance of their play, I promise you, I am going to wake up and tell the immensely talented cast to get the fuck out of my apartment before I punch them all in the throat.