Column is a monthly feature that follows the lives
of creative people and explores the world of creativity.
de Sousa, Director, AbleStable
without skill gives us contemporary
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...
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
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
Art of Life
must again touch our lives, our fears,
and cares. It must evoke our dreams
and give hope to the darkness.”
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...
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