Art, money, and resistance

Ways of Seeing, by John BergerBy Ben Windsor and Matthew Cookson in Britain:

A basic feature of capitalism is that aspects of life that should be accessible to everyone become controlled and restricted to a privileged elite – the ruling class.

Works of visual art, such as paintings or sculptures, are no exception to this general rule.

There are two key ways in which capitalism creates an artificial barrier between art and the majority of the population.

The first is by cloistering artworks away in museums and galleries.

In theory, museums and galleries are meant to grant public access to art, and they succeed in this goal to a certain extent.

Nevertheless, many working class people feel that these places are not meant for them and do not visit.

The solemn atmosphere of museums and galleries make them intimidating, as if they are or ought to be the preserve of the middle and upper classes.

The great Marxist art theorist John Berger described this process as part of a general trend of “mystification” of art under capitalism.

Pierre Bourdieu, the French left wing sociologist, made similar observations.

His research found the way people from different classes are educated guides and reinforces the way they view art.

The other key way in which capitalism prevents mass access to art is by turning artworks into luxury commodities to be bought and sold on the market.

Professional artists are forced to follow the whims of this market to survive.

A tiny group of extremely rich individuals – such as the Tory advertising boss Charles Saatchi – dominate this market and thus become “arbiters of taste”.

How can politically radical artists resist these pressures?

One method is to take art out of the museums and into the streets.

Also on this subject: here.

2 thoughts on “Art, money, and resistance

  1. Pingback: Art market destroys museum collections | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Economist Piketty and inequality discussed in new book | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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