Nothing really happened? How can you say such a thing, Mick van Schooneveld? Guido van der Werve. Ron Mueck. Marina Abramovic. Luc Tuymans. Yayoi Kusama. Jeff and Damien. Peter Doig. My goodness, man, where are your senses?

Thank you for asking. I’ve got my senses with me and I am using them the best I can – which is pretty good, if you ask me... And being busy doing this, there is this one thing that amazes me, that triggers me, that even disturbs me every once in a while. Because, you see, I really do love art. And when I notice that contemporary art is only doing things slightly differently from how they were already done in some (glorious...) past – and in many cases not even that... -, while in another field of culture, the sciences, things are getting ever more exciting, because there are ever more new things revealed to us, my art lover’s heart is going to beat a whole lot faster, not because of excitement, but because of disappointment.

The sciences, no matter how much you struggle to deny it, are the formative power in contemporary society. It is what they make possible, which determines what we eat, what we do, what we use to do not get children, how we communicate, what we think and what we feel. And this being the case, it is obvious, the sciences are something to reckon with.

And the arts? News papers writing about auction records for the art of Gerhard Richter, Lucian Freud and the like, tell us that somewhere, somehow, people are willing to express that art must be one of the most valuable things this world has to offer. Blockbuster exhibitions tell us that there has never been an audience for the arts as big as the contemporary audience. But to someone with his senses with him, using them the best he can, this is not immediately proof to the fact that the arts are, like the sciences, something we really reckon with. And, in fact, we don’t.

Somewhere down the innumerable lines that are connecting the present with the past, the idea that art moves in a space of countless possibilities has caused art to lose its necessity. If anything goes, nothing stands out and so there’s nothing to really reckon with.

Essentially art has become merely a pass time, nothing more, nothing less. Not to be distinguished anymore from the many different other favourite pass times there are to kill time. Ferraris. Houses. Yachts. Contemporary art. They all belong to a certain life style. But while the Ferraris, the houses and the yachts are state-of-the art, contemporary art is not at all state-of-the-art anymore. Because where cars, houses and boats are directly connected to the developments of the sciences, and so are constantly renewed, the arts are finding themselves on an island that floats through contemporary life, preserving a self-supporting distance from what is becoming ever more essential in this world.

The human genome. Nano-technology. Elementary particle physics at CERN. Quantum computers. Phenomena touching the very essence of our being, of our place on earth and in the universe. In the sciences the movement is clear: ever more essential. The outcome: possibilities we could not have dreamed of even 70 years ago.

And in contemporary art? Yes, there are artists who take the contemporary scientific developments into account and create art in which these developments play a significant role. But that doesn’t mean that art itself, their art, is finding itself on the same level of elementary exploration. And, in fact, it is not. Not even near. Art at the moment, compared to the ever-deepening insights of the sciences, very much stays on the outside of things. As usual, it criticizes, comments, reflects (often on itself...), reveals, but it does so with means that stay very much on the surface of what our mind is able the grasp. The contemporary sciences are way beyond that. String theory. Epigenetics. Majorana particles. Boundary after boundary is crossed in the sciences.

Compared to the depths of what the contemporary sciences reveal to us, contemporary art is most superficial. It maybe does, in a very fashionable way, tell us an age-old story in a slightly different way. But that’s about it. And then again, o horror of horrors, it may tell this story differently, but hardly ever better or at least just as good. Leaving us to conclude that, despite its arty farty glossy outside, its supposed vitality is no vitality at all, but tiredness wrapped in pretty paper.

Let’s take death, the ultimate phenomenon. We all know that there is particularly one contemporary artist that has specialized in the subject: shiny Damien. He gave us the bling-bling death of deaths, fitting a cold and cynical world of utter disbelieve perfectly – so it seemed…  To quite a lot of us this liaison with death was most staggering, breathtaking and uplifting. Not to me. You see, however I very much do like to live my life in the present, I cannot help myself being aware of the fact that there is a past as well and that in this past there are achievements made that put the achievements of our own times in perspective. Looking at Damien’s ultra-death I cannot help myself being aware of the fact that there is another ultra-death hidden in de blankets of time: Dead Christ of Hans Holbein. Maybe you say: come on, Mick van Schooneveld, Damien told us quite another story than Holbein. He told us about death in a world deprived of any believe in anything else except consumerism. Holbein told us about death in a world that still saw itself in the hand of an omnipotent power you had to devote your life to. True. But still. Death is central in both their works. But how is it central? Through what means finds something we call death the expression the artist looked for. In the case of Damien it is in a most self-evident way: a skull. More directly death cannot be represented in art. Even a child can see that. Holbein however, ever so meticulously, painted death in the supposed body of Chist, every little brush stroke just on the verge of contributing to the whole concept or not. The hundreds - thousands...- of separate brush strokes of Holbein, each contributed to the ‘deathness’ of Christ in a way that he seems even more death than any corpse you will ever see – believe me, I have seen, unfortunately enough, a few corpses from close by… If you like it or not, the death of Damien is a most superficial death, while the death of Holbein is a death unfolding depths a mind like Dostojevski’s almost drowned in. The death of Damien is, so to speak, much too much in your face, too rude, to be a grand representative of what death represents in the mind of someone living. And however shiny Damien is seen as the grandmaster of horror, the truest, utterly inescapable, horror comes from old-fashioned Holbein. And it comes entirely from refinement. To grab him by his existential tail, even ice-cold death is best approached with refinement. In the arts.


If there is anything defining what is happening in the contemporary sciences, it will be a continuous growth of refinement. In any field of science. The way Heinrich Schliemann once excavated what was supposed to be the Troy from the Iliad, was extremely rude compared to the way archaeologists would have done that nowadays. Using much more refined techniques would have deepened our insights tremendously. Deepening our insights means reaching for higher levels of refinement.

So far for contemporary art.

But what about Meta-art?

Well, if there is one thing defining Meta-art - apart from it being all-paradoxical - it will be the fact that Meta-art is more refined than any art has ever been. And with this incredible refinement it is able to express far more essential insights than any art has ever been able to. Meta-art is in this much, much, more than the contemporary art surrounding it, on par with what is essentially happening in the sciences of today. And with this Meta-art has taken art really into the 21st century, while all other contemporary art is still rooted in a level of expression that has essentially not deepened anymore since the late 50s of the last century.

Ever so slowly the world is moving away from rudeness – with its ups and downs, I know… - and Meta-art is moving away with it, presenting us expressive means of an unparalleled depth, complexity and refined truth-finding.

In the arts this step is bigger than any other step ever made – with the exception of course of the start of making art…


Nothing really happened reflects on what is said in Short letter to an unaware art world, a promotional card sent at the end of September 2013 to 400 personalities from the art world and its greater environment.

The Meta-paintings of Marianne Schuit?Meta-paintings.html

Nothing really happened!

Joost J. Ligthart speaks with Mick van Schooneveld

     “...are you never afraid that Marianne’s Meta-paintings are somehow 
            overshadowed by what you say about them?”

          “... if there is truth to be told, even when it may seem like bragging, 
            I will not hesitate to tell this truth.”