The most common line against modern art is that it’s pretentious, and a lot of it is. Damien Hurst is a fucking parasite, but anyone that labels a whole medium, genre or mode ‘worthless’ isn’t paying attention. It is elitist, yes, and I hate that, but that is a function of capitalism, not the art itself.
Art stopped having to be representative of what we saw when photographs were invented. Although photography is itself an art and a lot of art in the category is ‘modern’, the mechanics of it, the availability of the technology, meant that not just the rich could get images of themselves made. Photography freed all other mediums from the burden of representation and now can do what they want. Whether it is good or bad is up to you, and is a matter of quality so can’t really be answered here.
The freedom that this begets means that people can explore big, conceptual, abstract and ineffable things, because the form of expression does affect the expression. We can say things with these new modes that we wouldn’t be able to express otherwise. All the things that the art critics and theorists say cannot encompass all of the things that some bricks on the floor or blue cut-outs can say if you engage with it. And you can because I regularly go and stare at some red squares on some darker red squares for forty minutes or more and it does something to my brain that nothing else can.
It’s not like exercise or straining to think of something that is difficult to grasp, it is a type of intellectual and emotional engagement that you can’t get in any other way.