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Tim’s Vermeer

A sloppy film in many respects, but its formal shortcomings do little to diminish how fascinating its subject’s single-minded obsession is. Reading some of the more prominent critiques of said subject in the Guardian and the New York Times, which describe Tim Jenison as a philistine whose attempted deconstruction of Vermeer’s technique is an act of denigration, I was struck by how willfully they miss the point. Jenison makes no bones about being a dilettante, insisting time and again that he is not an artist, and his reverence for Vermeer’s work is palpable. No one in Tim’s Vermeer creates a new work and proclaims it to be on par with Vermeer. Instead, Jenison replicates an existing Vermeer painting, is humbled by the effort, and plainly acknowledges that any art inherent in the image is a result of Vermeer’s decisions, not Jenison’s. The art world’s defensive crouch is characteristically idolatrous, disingenuous, and unbecoming.