Tuesday, March 17, 2009

OPINION: Are non-traditional venues a help or hindrance to the fine arts?

This is our second March question, submitted by Andrew Kline

Thanks for this opportunity to have an exchange of ideas on the subject of Art. The question of the day is: “Are nontraditional art venues a help or a hindrance to the fine arts? First of all what do we call nontraditional art venues? Do we mean any exhibition space other than a museum or gallery? I would further assume that what is meant by "non-traditional venue" is some kind of business location like a restaurant or book store. And then there is of course the question of what is “fine art”. These are not easy questions to answer. To me they go straight to the heart of what art is and what role it has to play in our culture.

We live in an egalitarian age where the making of art is supposed to be available to everyone. Any body with a camera, paint brush or a word processor is suddenly considered an artist just by trying to produce an image or a poem. And that is all well and good. Everyone has a creative side that they should be allowed to develop. But that in and of itself does not make them artists. Let alone “fine artists”. A “fine artist” is someone who primarily devotes his or her life to the creation of art. Someone whose central struggle in their life is to answer the hard questions of our existence through their art. Their work deserves better presentation and more respect than the other “masses produced art”. So if we mean “fine art” being enhanced or hindered by it being exhibited in nontraditional venues I would say “Hindered”. If we mean “non-fine art work”, art of the masses, I would say “Helped”.

The role that “fine art“ plays in our culture is to expand our way of seeing and understanding the world around us. Artists through their study and perseverance develop a sensitivity and insight to our world that the layman does not have. The work they produce deserves more care
and reverence than the work of the part-time artists. Displaying “fine art” in nontraditional venues trivializes and demeans it. By its very nature it is not meant to be seen as commonplace. To experience the work in its fullest it needs to be shown in a place that has been set aside solely for that purpose.

Photo of City Market by Marc Awodey