What is art? I frequently ask myself that question when I see a polished ad in a fashion magazine or when I observe weird stuff in a museum. Did you know that many artworks exhibited in museums were not meant to be art, but rather a subversive act against the establishment of their times? So, why are they in museums? Is art supposed to be rebellious or beautiful?
Conversely, are you one of those people who think that art is a matter of taste? If that was true, everything could be art, like a chair, a shoe or a toilet! Do we accept the objects we see in museums as art just because they are in museums? When we look at an Andy Warhol’s, are we just pretending to see what is not really there? Maybe this dilemma stems from our confusion and sense of loss. The loss of those ideas we thought would stay eternally unchanged. God, consciousness, freedom, choice.
To set it in plain philosophical terms from the 20th-century art has been instilled with a philosophy of relativism and pluralism where everything seems to be acceptable and accepted by most.
However, we crave guidance to help us understand a meaningless universe, which offers inﬁnite choices. Therefore we expect the “system” in this case the art system to give us all the answers we are looking for. We let the critics decide for us what is art, what we should consider valuable or not. However, the art system like any other system doesn’t care about giving us anything meaningful or truthful, because it is primarily organized by academic bureaucrats who function in correlation with the art market which is only interested in making money. This system effectively absorbs all-new subversive efforts and places them into a neutral, only occasionally gently offensive history of art, the kind we ﬁnd in art history textbooks.
Maybe we should go back and listen to the wise men. Tolstoy believed that “a real work of art destroys the separation between the audience and the artist. We become one with the artist. And in sharing this union with others lies the great attractive force of art.” Art shouldn’t be created for sale; it should be designed to inspire.
While Benedetto Croce said, “Art is not the concept that it displays, but the emotion that the concept inspires.” So that even when we don’t possess any past knowledge of the artwork we observe, we “feel” its message immediately. And this feeling like Croce states “is what grants art the airy lightness of a symbol.”
Maybe for art to be a powerful instrument of social progress, it needs to be understood by as many people as possible and not only by an elite of individuals. Whatever this art is, it must be universal; like a scientiﬁc “truth.” And as it is universal, so it must be free and not regulated by market demands or fashion trends.