This is an important Posting.
Really it is. Why? Because we’re pausing here to take a look at the use of the word important. Rush Limbaugh was criticizing the use of the word by an antique dealer on his show December 1. I posted this fact on the Urban Art & Antiques Facebook page and had a reader respond with the transcript.
“You know, I love this word, ‘important.’ I remember once I found myself in an antique store, and the salesclerk was trying to impress upon me why I should have this particular piece or that, she said, ‘It’s important.’ The first time she said it, ‘Okay, went in one year and out the other,’ and she kept describing other pieces as ‘important.’ I finally said, ‘What’s important about it?’ ‘Well,’ she said, ‘It’s a very important piece.’ ‘Yeah, but why? What’s important about it?’ ‘Well, for its day and age, I mean it was big. It was very, very loved and adored. It was very classic.’ I said, ‘Well, why does it make it important?’ She had no answer. “
So what does this word “important” mean when we use it to talk about antiques? Well, it could be a particularly good example of something. For instance, there was New York chair that went at auction today at Charlton Hall. It was a pretty unusual chair, and I suspected it could be a second period chair. However, there’s one that looks an awful lot like it in Wendy Cooper’s Classical Taste in America. I think perhaps the chair would be “important,” because it was an unusual form even for Phyfe. Likewise an “important” auction would contain some important stuff owned by notable people that hadn’t been on the market for a while.
Important in this reference may be because it’s an early form foreshadowing a stylistic transition.
Christie’s used the word in this press release for the results of a recent paintings auction. Certainly some of these sales prices seem to signify somebody thought these paintings to be important.
In modern art, I don’t think we can say important with as much confidence, but it is used none-the-less. What we think of an important now may seem less important or even insignificant in retrospect.
Before he started on the use of this word, however, Limbaugh was talking about the removal of a video work depicting ants crawling on a crucifix at the National Portrait Gallery. The work by the late David Wojnarowicz might be considered important for a variety of other reasons, one of which may be the fact that it broke new ground. The show on the sexual differences in American portraiture can now perhaps be considered important because it succeeded in upsetting one talk radio host.