I’ve always been uncomfortable with the issue of elitism in fine art. Growing up in Southwest Detroit I was exposed to fine art primarily through church, museums, and art history classes. The only “art” on display in our home were religious or ethnic; statuary, reliefs, prints and Ukrainian pysanky. Holy cards were also beautiful to me, I collected them like my brother did baseball cards. A St. Therese the Little Flower was the equivalent of a Mickey Mantle. Although, I don’t think they ever became monetized, but I digress here, back to art. It’s not that we didn’t appreciate it. It just wasn’t in the budget. A few recent events have me thinking more about the matter of access to art. Conversations with a friend about her disappointment in the Whitney Biennial, brings up the question regarding “what is contemporary art?” Also who decides, I don’t know if there has been a time in the history of art that there have been so many different threads of creative expression operating simultaneously. Viewing the play “Red,” about Rothko, and seeing his narcissism regarding who was worthy to own his art work, gave me more to consider. Who can afford to buy fine art? Is fine art only for the 1%? The recent sale of Munch’s The Scream has me asking “What kind of world does a painting sell for $120 million?” Should we despair as Jonathan Jones discusses in his blog. Then on the other end of the spectrum, we have someone like graffiti artist Banksy’s work at 555 Gallery. Here’s a famous artist who does not sell his work, instead gets attention by the way he chooses to display it on public buildings. This BBC News Magazine article furthered my thinking regarding the state of contemporary art. Writing about the artists involved in the “Occupy” movement. Some these young artists are expressing a belief that their art is not designed to be bought, but to be shared. Their artwork is “copyleft”, free to be used in poster art. Instead of relying on a gallery, their art has them engaging directly with the public. I think there are always going to be extremes, but they don’t need to form our reality or define our era. I’d like to believe that contemporary art can continue to grow where ever it is and by whomever chooses to make it and put it out there. I finally participated in my first Free Art Friday Detroit. I ended up making a small painting to set free, to replace the mixed media sculpture I shared in my last posting. Below is a photo of where I left it.
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