go to Reviewsgo to Servicesgo to Registered Usersgo to Resource Centrego to AbleStable: Helpgo to About Us
go to AbleStable: Home The column
go to Search

go to Exhibitions Centre
  Following the lives and fortunes of creative people  
go to Help
go to Resource Centre
go to Library
go to Articles
go to E-Books
go to Glossary
go to Reviews
go to Web Link
The Column icon The Column: Issue 8

The Library > The Column Archive > The Column 008

E-mail this web page address to a friend or colleague
Enter their email address below (no record is kept of this action)


The Column is a monthly feature that follows the lives of creative people and explores the world of creativity.

Fool's Art
Mike de Sousa, Director, AbleStable

"Imagination without skill gives us contemporary art."
From 'Artist Descending a Staircase' by Tom Stoppard

As art and commerce becomes inextricably linked in our daily lives, so art looses its status and importance. The rich buy art as an assertion of their economic standing and good taste. Art becomes no more than decoration. Art becomes the fool's gold of our times...

Way Out West

Once upon a time tens of thousands of people headed out towards the American West to find their fortune in the mythical gold fields of California. A host of would-be millionaires, new to the game, filled their bags with fool's gold and the dreams of a better life. As they approached the nearest town to claim their place in the history of lucky breaks, they kept their treasure hidden, safe, away from the prying eyes of others.

The Quick Draw

Human nature is no different now. We want quick results for little effort. Young artists want immediate recognition and do not easily accept the value of slow maturation. The result is a predisposition to fashion and eye-catching, news-driven, ego-centred art. The typified gestures of adolescent rebellion. Their main focus is their commercial success in an art world defined by economics and elitism. If you don't practice the quick draw you're confined to the scrap heap.

As the great art critic Robert Hughes puts it "too many painters have been left without a middle ground between the miseries of oblivion and the stresses of cultural stardom". The contemporary artist fails to ingratiate themselves with the affluent client base of the art world at their own risk. The popular news media is unlikely to smile upon artists who do not command high prices for their creative endeavours.

Art As Furniture

Art in the West has become consumerised and often defined as either 'Contemporary', or 'Popular'. In a capitalist culture, art is bought and sold, valued and devalued depending on the taste and whims of the paying consumer.

A typical scenario for the purchase of an artwork is that it compliments an existing environment: a corporate building, a person's home, a cultural establishment. The artwork must reflect the values and attitudes of the commissioning agent, it must present 'appropriate content', be the right size, shape, colour, and produced using media that reflects and promotes the consumer's corporate, organisational, or personal persona. As the interior world of the consumer changes, so the artwork is replaced. Art becomes disposable.

The fact that the consumer is the dominant agent in this exchange may not seem that significant. After all, art has been used to assert economic status since the times of the pharaohs. The primary emphasis of art however has changed. Art is now often no more than house decoration.

Art as furniture is encouraged by the plethora of imitations and inexpensive copies. In the West we can pick up a ready framed print of a Cezanne still-life painting from our local foodstore for less than two packets of biscuits and a jar of coffee.

Off The Wall

Placing an economic value on an art object has always been problematical. An artist has to live and be paid for their creative works, however, the well publicised large sums of money that pass from some customers to artists sends out the message that art is little more than another commodity in a consumerist culture.

Andres Serrano, who burst onto the scene with his photo of a statue of Christ immersed in urine, went on to photograph a vat of milk. The shot produced a pure white page, leading Serrano’s printer to ask “Why can’t we just sell the unexposed photographic paper which is indistinguishable from your picture?” Serrano answered: “Because we can sell my prints for a lot of money”. Serrano is a highly celebrated, representative member of today’s Western art establishment.

The difference in price between that cheap Cezanne copy I mentioned earlier, and an original work of art can be staggering. $5 for a framed copy of a master artwork from the foodstore, $29,900 for Tom Friedman's dead ladybug in a styrofoam cup placed against a white wall called “Untitled”. The general public witness the absurdity and crude economic assertion of status that defines inflated art prices, and art ironically looses its value in the minds of ordinary people.

The Art of Life

“Art must again touch our lives, our fears, and cares. It must evoke our dreams and give hope to the darkness.”
Frederick Hart

I prefer to use the phrase 'creative work' as opposed to 'art'. The term 'creative work' seems to me more inclusive. Children, amateurs, commercial designers, photographers, movie makers, and crafts people are welcomed into the fold. We judge and experience creative works in a different way than when asked to consider a work as 'art'. The pressure is off. A creative work can be a child's painting as much as a new three movement symphony, and creative works need not be measured in economic terms.

Being creative is a state of humanity, being artistic is an assertion of ego. Perhaps it is inevitable that art is redefined in our new world of interconnectedness. Perhaps art will become a term we use to describe the small and inward looking world of the career artist, perhaps it already has...


AbleStable® welcomes feedback on The Column. Go to Feedback, complete the form, and make your views known.

Authors background
Mike de Sousa is the Director of AbleStable®. Mike has been commissioned as an artist, music composer, photographer, print and web site designer, and author.

If you observe inaccuracies in our in-house contributions or wish to contribute an article or review to be included at AbleStable® visit Feedback.

Copyright Notice
Although our contents are free to browse, copyright resides with the originators of all works accessed at AbleStable®, and unauthorised copying or publication of our site contents is strictly prohibited.

AbleStable © 2002-2007

 All Material: AbleStable © 2002-2007
go to Frequently Asked Questionsgo to Feedbackgo to Press Centrego to Privacy Statement