Preface: art (with a lowercase ‘a’)
When you step back and look at it, art is simply a way of communicating. We are all trying to communicate something—who we are, what we see, how we think. We each have much more going on in our heads than we are capable of expressing. So we write stories, play music, dance, paint, act, or any number of creative pursuits. We try to communicate ourselves, our understanding of the world, our experiences—all the things that seem impossible to share with someone in casual conversation.
Children make art. Adults too. Professionals, amateurs, even “uncreatives” can make art. Art is not a mystery. It’s people sharing with one another—communicating (or at least trying to). And that’s what makes it is so valuable. Unfortunately, art is not always “Art.”
Art (with a capital A)
In some ways “art is dead” in the sense that Art (with a capital A) is about celebrity—a singular Artist who paints on a canvas and creates a masterpiece. Van Gogh, Picasso, Mondrian, Da Vinci—they may have had something valid to share with the world, but so do countless other individuals of the past, present, and future.
We no longer live in a time of the lone genius tinkering away, hoping to create a masterpiece. The world has become too complex for meaningful work to be done in isolation. Consider the computer animation company, Pixar, for example. Pixar is arguably one of the greatest mixed media “artists” of our time—a multiplier of many talented people working together to tell expressive stories. There is no amount of “creative genius” that can out-master that level of collaboration. And in this way, the Artist-as-sacrosanct mentality of the art world is perhaps irrelevant to modern life.
Individuals will always create. There is something very human about making and expressing what words cannot express. But the “Art World” as it stands today—the network of museums, auction houses, art schools, periodicals, and collectors—seems to be stodgy and outdated. It is yet another industry fighting for relevance well past its prime.
As the internationally recognized street artist, Banksy, puts it:
Art is not like other culture because its success is not made by its audience. The public fill concert halls and cinemas every day, we read novels by the millions and buy records by the billions. ‘We the people’ affect the making and the quality of most of our culture, but not our art.
The art we look at is made by only a select few. A small group create, promote, purchase, exhibit, and decide the success of art. Only a few hundred people in the world have any real say. When you go to an art gallery you are simply a tourist looking at the trophy cabinet of a few millionaires.
Perhaps if you had fully explored what the rest of life has to offer, then Art would provide an endless world of new exploration and interpretation. Perhaps Art is the ultimate luxury—the final, superfluous status symbol of privilege.
But then again, maybe I’m wrong. After all, it’s far easier to dismiss something completely than to recognize its nuance and complexity.
Banksy. Wall and Piece. Mainaschaff: Publikat, 2005. (Amazon).
Catmull, Ed, and Amy Wallace. Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration. New York: Random House, 2014. (Amazon)
Conover, Adam. “Adam Ruins Fine Art.” Adam Ruins Everything. 08 August 2017. (Link)