What is beauty?

Question: What is beauty?

Antonelli: What is beauty?  Well beauty is very interesting because it’s changed a lot in the 20th century in a much more interesting way – a much more interesting way than it used to be before.  When Philip Johnson, you know the great curator, and architect, and patron of MOMA, and one of the people that interviewed me for my job . . . and he was so provocative I cannot tell you.  He did a show called Machine Art in 1934.  He took propeller blades and coils and put them on white pedestals against walls as if they were ____________ sculptures, because he wanted to show people how beautiful design can be.  But at that time he was talking about platonic beauty.  He wanted to show an absolute beauty – something that is above the fray of the world; that is universal; and that everybody can recognize.  Now that idea completely burst during the 20th century.  And you know I used to be a punk, so hey!  What can you say?  You know beauty is so relative.  And you can see that today beauty is really up to the individual, and it’s more an expression of something that is a personal composition.  I used to say that it’s Madonna and _________ that kind of destroyed the idea of platonic beauty.  Because if you look at the __________ actresses – the ones that have profiles that look like not even ski slopes; that are completely vertical and are these beautiful Picasso women – they’re not classical beauty.  They are a beauty that is completely . . . that is completely subjective; but at the same time because it is so strong and objective it becomes universal.  So so much happened in the ‘60s, and ‘70s, and ‘80s in terms of new ideas of beauty in the body and human beings; the fact that, you know, the first Black model on the cover of Vogue.  You know just all of these different changes; or even the Dove commercial last year with the kind of heavyset women showing that they were beautiful too.  When it comes to the human body you can go through this narration very easily.  When it comes to design it’s not that different.  You can’t anymore talk about a certain platonic beauty.  But it’s more about what people see in the object.  It’s more about communication and meaning than it is about form.

From propeller blades to Dove models, the definition has changed greatly.

Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash
Culture & Religion
She was walking down the forest path with a roll of white cloth in her hands. It was trailing behind her like a long veil.
Keep reading Show less

NASA finds water on sunlit moon surface for first time

Water may be far more abundant on the lunar surface than previously thought.

Credit: Helen_f via AdobeStock
Surprising Science
  • Scientists have long thought that water exists on the lunar surface, but it wasn't until 2018 that ice was first discovered on the moon.
  • A study published Monday used NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy to confirm the presence of molecular water..
  • A second study suggests that shadowy regions on the lunar surface may also contain more ice than previously thought.
Keep reading Show less

AI reveals the Sahara actually has millions of trees

A study finds 1.8 billion trees and shrubs in the Sahara desert.

Credit: bassvdo/Shutterstock
Surprising Science
  • AI analysis of satellite images sees trees and shrubs where human eyes can't.
  • At the western edge of the Sahara is more significant vegetation than previously suspected.
  • Machine learning trained to recognize trees completed the detailed study in hours.
Keep reading Show less

Coffee and green tea may lower death risk for some adults

Tea and coffee have known health benefits, but now we know they can work together.

Credit: NIKOLAY OSMACHKO from Pexels
Surprising Science
  • A new study finds drinking large amounts of coffee and tea lowers the risk of death in some adults by nearly two thirds.
  • This is the first study to suggest the known benefits of these drinks are additive.
  • The findings are great, but only directly apply to certain people.
Keep reading Show less