Column is a monthly feature that explores the world
of creativity and aesthetics.
The Value of Art
de Sousa, Director, AbleStable
The value of art appears to diminish in the public's
eye year by year. Contemporary art is now firmly
established and promoted as a commodity, and the
efforts of influential public relations firms solidify
the cynicism and suspicion that so many now feel
about art. Is art worth less or priceless?
Art as Luxury
Art in the West is more often than not viewed as
a luxury. A non-essential diversion for the well
off. It is not at all clear to many what role art
has in society, and governments and arts organisations
struggle in their efforts to justify funding art
from public taxes as they support obscure works
that often fail to connect with the general population.
The public is presented with a seemingly simple
choice: should taxes be used to pay for a new wing
of a hospital, or to buy a painting to hang in a
gallery that relatively few people will visit or
care that much about? The public perceive the value
and choice of art within a marketplace, when in
truth art has little to do with buying and selling.
Living artists are sucked into the world of media,
spin, and self promotion. Modern art is defined
by prize winners and art marketers who favour those
who aren't necessarily producing enriching or original
art, but that are easily lead to satisfy their ego
and bank balance in exchange for media malleability.
The public see this and view the modern art world
with a cynical eye.
The dead artist has been usurped by the heritage
industry as it too promotes art and artist as products.
Capitalism is like that, products are required for
sale and art is high jacked by the world of producer
The Nature of Art
Art however is far more than commodity as it expresses,
comments upon, and enriches our lives. At its root,
art is essentially spiritual and taps our senses
in its path to our hearts. It makes sense of our
place in the world. Art is of great value yet often
of little price: a child produces a painting. The
painting may not be aesthetically sophisticated,
but it is a powerful expression of how the child
experiences the world. The painting is for the child
and connects the child with those who view it. Price
plays no part in this equation. The art the child
has created is priceless.
Art has far more in common with our spiritual lives
than capitalism. Unlike religion, art does not require
faith. It simply, is. Art is amoral and human centred.
We experience it, are persuaded or not by it, connect
or not with others because of it, and our eyes are
opened or not as result of it. The choice and experience
of it is all ours. The experience is 'owned' by
us and cannot be sold. Art has an intrinsic value
but we must judge its value according to our own
lights. We have to take responsibility for its value
rather than allowing others to make those judgments
for us. Art makes us act.
People still see Hamlet four hundred years after
it was first written, not for its historical perspective,
but for the observations, comments, and truths it
contains about the human condition. Although art
doesn't necessarily ask questions or provide answers,
it can help bring us into a state of consciousness
about the world around us. The more effort we make,
the more time we give, the more enriched we become.
is born of the imagination, an original and singular
vision rather than a cloned mass-produced object
spewed forth from a factory or production line.
If money ceased to exist as inevitably one day it
will, art will continue to flourish.
As to what art is, that's for each of us to decide.
What is art to one, is craft to another, profound
or superficial, we each have our views. For me however
it is not the view that is the most significant
as the fact we need to view to make us whole.
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