Art Worlds

The institutional Art World –

A chronically (and possibly necessary) elite structure, it is composed of a group of experts and professionals world-wide whose daily function is to fully describe “good” Art (a valuation function) and to market this good Art (a sales function). The participants in this world are collectors, critics, gallerists and artists, as well as the institutions which support the participants such as museums, art schools, media outlets and auction houses. Entrance into this world is strictly controlled by a phalanx of gatekeepers schooled (groomed) in the conventional codes of what Art is and what it should do.

The power is top-down. That is, the purchasing power parity of works (price as it relates to value) is controlled by market players who collude to protect current values (in their current portfolios) as well as create new markets (speculation). Exclusive of the price mechanism is a codified Art History that describes creativity in universal sweeping terms, to determine the Art World’s role in affecting general history (and vice versa).

Modigliani -- of the Art World. Schooled at the Academy, extended the definition of beauty, marketed as an elite painter worth tens of millions of dollars per piece.

Modigliani -- of the Art World. Schooled at the Academy, extended the definition of beauty, marketed as an elite painter worth tens of millions of dollars per piece.

Artists who learn and participate in the Art World (upper case) have an insular context from which to create their artistic messaging: themes and subjects will be imbued with generalized learning and knowledge such as mythological, psychological, and technical memes, historical and literary allusions, or rarefied insights into the lives of the commensurate elite (a reportage function).

The non-institutional art world –

This is the group whose works have not benefited from expenditures in learning arts techniques or in arts education (the price of admission to the institutional Art World). As such, the Art produced by the participants is often described (by the Art World) in pejorative, non-majority rhetoric as being parochial, childish, idiosyncratic, outsider, street, naive, craft, commercial, or sub-cultural.

The power is lateral. That is, there are no phalanxes of critics or market makers determining the ultimate methods of creation, and the barriers to creativity are perceived to be low.

Thus young children, when they are schooled in art projects, are not part of an institutional art world except tangentially (vis-a-vis the classically liberal education tradition, an elitist concept, and the groomed biases of their art teachers). Children produce art for joy, diversion and relaxation.

Child Work -- not of the Art World, but rather good art in the context of humanity.

Child Work -- not of the Art World, but rather good art in the context of humanity.

When adolescent youth paint the walls of a city with graffiti, they too are not part of the art world — they break the laws of various institutions to express a nascent symbology. There are no costs to materials (canvas, clay) and there are no costs to market. They participate in the joy of art making regardless, or in spite of, the barriers to joining the institutional Art World.

When adults knit or create blankets or shawls or design their own clothes, or attempt any craft/hobbyist experiment, they are expressing themselves outside the Art World insofar as they are creating objects for personal use, not to be parlayed into the institutional Art World. The expectations are not to address the Art World at all, or adopt expectations set by the Art World, but to relax and find joy and possibly functional utility.

The way I see it, the best the institutional Art World can offer is the message of humanism – that we are all in this life together, as equals, to find meaning in that which is confusing (existence itself).

The best the non-institutional art world can offer is the message of just being human, without the “–ism” after it.

All else should be suspect.

Very truly yours,

Beacon Hill, Seattle, Washington state, USA

About michael

artist making sense of the artist life, in the context of the broader Life.
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One Response to Art Worlds

  1. Michael says:

    I don’t see here a hint of meaningful definition of of what art is. In this blog about art you mix up three domains, that despite being interwoven, are totally separate.
    First is the creation,
    Second is research about the creation
    Third is the commercial engine.

    The artists don’t give a damn about how they figure in critics or scholars gossips. Their interest is their ability to move viewers with their creation. Maybe also to sell it. The little money they they spent on materials. But they have no influence over the market.

    The researchers critics write ton of words about creation, for meager salaries, never soiling their hands in colors. They seek to be reputable for their expertise, not to be wealthy selling art.

    The commercial domain is about finding which works/artists would be fashionable in the foreseeable future, to invest or sell. They never say to artist what to create; they don’t know; they dont’t care.

    If you will start seeing the “Art World” as made up from these, you’ll stop confusing between “Art World” and art. You may one day understand what art is. It’s an elusive aim.

    So what about your notion that work of art must be sacred?
    Is a undecorated jade axe, dug from some 4000y old grave an piece of art? Is highly stylized grafitti from restrooms of Grand Central, Mnahattan? Is the gaping vagina of a roped up woman from a polaroid by Araki?
    Why not?
    Why yes?
    What makes a work of art?

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