A fraudulent tailor who’d sold the emperor a suit of non-existent clothes was thrown out of the empire with a warning never to return. Because the emperor of this new empire was an art lover the scammer decided to become an artist. He bought a square of canvass and some tubes of acrylic paint and in a stroke of genius he fed the paint to his dog who after a while regurgitated the paint together with his dinner all over their white canvas. He then put on his eccentric bohemian attire and presented himself to the imperial art committee and said, “I am a great artist, so brilliant, so avant-garde, and so tormented by my talent that my work can only be understood by the truly sophisticated. Ordinary people—well! Ordinary people look at my paintings and say, ‘That looks like dog vomit,’ but that simply shows how pedestrian their tastes are, how little they understand the true sublimity of which art is capable. But you, ladies and gentlemen, you are persons of refined taste and deep aesthetic sensitivity. I know that you will appreciate—” He held up the canvas on which the dog had thrown up. “—the first great work of the Borborygmist school of art!”
Now of course the first thought of every member of the imperial art committee was that the painting looks like dog vomit. As soon as that thought entered their minds, though, every one of them immediately thought that their tastes are pedestrian and that they don’t understand the true sublimity of which art is capable. So none of them said anything at first. Then one, who felt a little more insecure than the others and felt he had to prove that he didn’t have pedestrian tastes, said, “This is indeed a great work of art.” All the others thought, “He must have refined taste and deep aesthetic sensitivity.” So they all began to praise the painting, and the more they looked at it, the more they succeeded in convincing themselves that it couldn’t be what it obviously was, that is, a canvas on which a dog had thrown up.
So the artist sold the painting to the Emperor for a tidy sum. The Emperor didn’t actually think much of it—his first thought on seeing it was, “That looks like dog vomit”—but since all the members of the imperial art committee insisted that it was a great masterpiece and only people with pedestrian tastes thought it looked like dog vomit, he kept his mouth shut and tried to convince himself that it really was a masterpiece. One day, though, when the painting had been put on display for the public, and the artists and the members of the art committee and the Emperor himself were standing there beaming, a little child came up, took one look at the painting, and said, “That looks like dog vomit.”
The artists, the committee members, and the Emperor all looked down their noses at the child and said, “Child, you obviously know nothing about art.” So the child went away, and the artist lived happily ever after—and that, my friends, is most of what you need to know about the history of modern art.