The Artistry of Hugh Hefner

I honestly can’t believe that I, of all people, have been put into the position of having to defend something as art to an “art expert.” But a discussion I had with Jennifer at the end of Mother’s Day dinner has put me in this most unusual spot.

Let me give you some brief background info before I go any further. I am, by no means, an art lover. I do have a few pieces of original art, but I choose to spend my money on other things most of the time. I attend each opening at PS:Gallery as a sign of support for Chris and Jennifer and not because I can’t wait to see what the new work looks like. Joel gets grief from me when I don’t like his work (everyone shouldn’t have to kiss his butt all of the time). I am not, nor should I be, the defender of what qualifies as art.

In this particular instance, although I don’t really remember how we got there, Jennifer made the statement that “Playboy is not art.” I, not so humbly, disagreed. I actually found myself taking the position that of course its art because, well…what is art really? Why wouldn’t the photographs in Playboy qualify?

I decided to look up the definition of art and here’s one I found – Art is the process or product of deliberately arranging elements in a way to affect the senses or emotions. If Playboy’s photos don’t effect the senses or emotions, I don’t know what does.  Wikipedia uses a piece of a nude female from 24,000 BP (BC) as an example of art. Who knows what the purpose of the piece was? Titilation perhaps?

My argument is basically that Playboy’s photos are art because many consider them to be, not because art snobs feel they aren’t. Borrowing from Wikipedia, “At the simplest level, a way to determine whether the impact of the object on the senses meets the criteria to be considered art is whether it is perceived to be attractive or repulsive. Though perception is always colored by experience, and is necessarily subjective, it is commonly taken that – that what is not somehow aesthetically satisfying cannot be art. However, “good” art is not always or even regularly aesthetically appealing to a majority of viewers. In other words, an artist’s prime motivation need not be the pursuit of the aesthetic. Also, art often depicts terrible images made for social, moral, or thought-provoking reasons.” What I’m saying is that regardless of the objective of Playboy’s photos, taken by highly skilled professional photographers, are still artisitc to many. You don’t have to own a gallery to grasp that.

Before I end this, I will tell you what I find offensive. When the gallery first opened, I believe at the first show, there were a couple of “pieces” (I bet you can guess what I thought they were pieces of ) that consisted of somebody’s junk mail and other trash glued to a canvas and put up for sale as art. The artist had the gall to ask for nearly $1000 for her trash glued to a board. I find that offensive.

I argued with Jennifer because I was shocked that she wasn’t defending all forms of art, not because I felt that the material wasn’t offensive or what belongs in a gallery. I was simply stating, and she helped shaped my view, that art is what we choose to make it.

Mike Radzin

PS:Gallery Guest Blogger


5 Responses to “The Artistry of Hugh Hefner”

  1. May 10, 2010 at 8:30 pm


    Thank you for your honesty and opinions here. I personally welcome the discussion but mostly from a listener’s seat at the table. I have mixed feelings about some of the labels that we put on art…such as “high” vs. “low”….there are so many… “outsider”…. “craft”…ugh….
    I look forward to checking back and reading what some of the fans have to say.

    I do have my preferences and in the female nude photography world I would take Ruth Bernhard over Playboy any day.

    Thanks, Josie

  2. 2 CS:
    May 10, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    I would say that there is art in Playboy, but Playboy in itself is not art.

  3. 3 Mike Sleadd
    May 11, 2010 at 1:08 am


  4. 4 cherie
    May 11, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    i agree with mike. if he thinks playboy photos are art, then to him, they’re art. we’re all as different as our dna and our fingerprints. we all take in and process colors and images continuously. great art to me is something that gives me joy. or makes me think. or repulses me. or challenges me. my own taste in judging art is like an adventure. bottom line, to each his own, and bon appetite in your discovery.

  5. May 28, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    Hah I am actually the only comment to your great writing?!

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