In 1984 Suzi Gablik made this observation about the effect that Modernism, and Post-Modernism, had upon art and culture: that the “values of the marketplace” had replaced or undermined any sense of a “meaning-giving function” in the art being created. Artists found themselves in a cultural and economic system that rewarded those who created commodities that met the needs of the Art Market. As Andy Warhol stated, “Why do people think artists are special? It’s just another job.”
In this 2011 article from Intelligent Life magazine Warhol is described as “the art market’s one-man Dow Jones.” It would seem that Gablik’s observations about the influence of the marketplace upon current art markets has not declined over the past 27 years but increased. More than ever it would seem that art has become a commodity.
Even on the local level there is influence – a general sameness in what is being offered, a cautious refusal to take risks outside of the most deliberately provocative markets - risks that go both ways, toward the avant-garde as well as toward traditionalism. And while Gablik did not foresee the equalizing influence of the internet, she did address the negative consequences of our cultural slide into Pluralism, where so many ideas about the value and purpose in art, offered by so many artists each exploring unlimited freedom of expression, have muddied the waters to the point that our culture has lost a sense of any “pattern of meaning” in the art it promotes.
Realistically, considering the social and economic environment that exists today, an artist cannot ignore the forces of the marketplace unless he is willing to withdraw completely and work in isolation, seeking neither recognition nor income. But in our own art practice, whether we are working for profit, for recognition, for pleasure, or for anything else, are we - or should we be - confronting the dreaded C words?
No, not commodity.
I am thinking more about these C words:
Creativity is the conceptual opposite of commodity. Courage is necessary to resist the status-quo and to live a creative life in harmony with one’s inner values. Compassion allows the artist to find his path between the competing interests of the market and his authentic artistic voice. Compulsion drives the artist’s need to reflect the image of the world as he sees it in both his art and his practice, and culture is the carrier of all that we value.
What is our art for?
What is your art for?
Please leave your comments, ideas, thoughts…
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