In a way, art has always been for everyone, from the cave paintings until today. It is often shown in public spaces so that everyone in the community can view it.
Yet there continues to be a sense that art is not really for everyone as only wealthy and powerful individuals or companies, or government or religious institutions can afford to collect the best known and revered art. There is a question and ongoing debate that asks: If art is for everyone, shouldn’t everyone be able to own art?
People from all classes feel that they own music, literature and films. Certainly the music and film and video industries have and are experiencing upheaval in how they are distributed so that more people can see and “own” digital reproductions of works. The publishing industry is currently also experiencing an upheaval as e books and readers grow in popularity, and authors self-publish, by-passing the publishing paradigm of the past century.
Fine art, especially two dimensional original works on paper or canvas and three dimensional sculpture is experiencing some change of method (like 3-D printing) and materials (like original digital prints). Art fairs may be somewhat changing sales and distribution, but generally the same galleries represent the artists only they set up small temporary galleries at the fairs. The paradigm for collecting art has not radically changed the way it has for buying books and obtaining soundtracks or videos.
That people other than a religious institution, the very wealthy or the government can own art is a modern idea. The idea is spreading thanks to the events of the Twentieth Century that show middle class people finding and buying art from artists who later become blue chip artists, making these early collectors wealthy.
In reality, keeping an artwork, like a painting in a good environment for its preservation, insuring it, correct framing, etc., is costly, but not out of reach for the solidly middle class. One well known middle class collector couple was Herb and Dorothy Vogel. The Vogels had little space in their one bedroom apartment as so much was relegated to the storage of their art collection. The Vogels had no children and lived frugally on only one of their salaries so that they could afford to collect art. Yet, they were not serious investors. They were serious art collectors who collected only works that they appreciated. They enjoyed meeting artists, going to their studios and discovering emerging art. Plus, at the time that they were collecting, prior to the Internet, they had an advantage: the Vogels lived in NYC. Eventually they gave their collection away, primarily to the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, D.C.
As collectors the Vogels were an exception. Although the Impressionists turned their attention to the middle classes, and even the peasants, original art was and is predominantly collected by people who are very wealthy and at a lower price point, such as for limited edition prints, by the upper middle class.
Until very recently having great (blue chip) art in one’s home meant buying so-so art reproductive prints or beautiful and expensive coffee table art books. Now anyone in the world with an Internet connection can easily access much of the greatest art in the world as most major museums and many galleries show their art on their websites and apps. Yet the art itself remains where it is and owned by others.
Digital print technology continues to improve, and is so good that original prints are referred to and sold as paintings by fine art galleries for thousands and tens of thousands of dollars. This same technology is applied to reproductions of works by well-known artists whose museum shows are blockbusters, such as Van Gogh, Picasso and Warhol. While the original is always best, new quality digital reproductions on paper or canvas have been mistaken for an original at first glance.
Historically, the community has always owned its art to a great extent, from the cave paintings to the street art of Banksy. The “true” owners were often the religious establishments, the rulers and the very wealthy, but showing off the art has always been popular.
Our communities are expanding thanks to the Internet, which is shifting our experience of distance and time as we quickly connect with those on other continents. A growing and interconnected community of artists, curators, collectors, art writers and historians, museum directors, dealers and enthusiasts (in no special order here) are connecting through social media. The walls where we display art are no longer just in our studios, homes, offices, galleries or museums, but also on out Facebook walls, in our Twitter streams, pinned on Pinterest, shared on Instagram and on blogs like this one.
This means that someone who lives far from the cities that attract artists, especially emerging artists, can discover the potentially next blue chip artists through social media, by reading posts, tweets and blogs and looking at the jpgs of their art that they post. A visit to an artist’s Facebook wall can be a bit like visiting with an artist in her studio and often there is a link to the artist’s blog where more images and ideas are posted.
If the Internet and social media had existed for Vincent van Gogh or Monet, given his literary letter writing skills he probably would have had a blog, definitely joined the art discussions on Facebook, and images of his work would have reached a wide audience in his lifetime. Would an Internet version of the Vogels who were looking to collect emerging artists have discovered him? So far this kind of discovery of a new artist who becomes recognized as a blue chip artist has not occurred, but it will happen.
The future looks exciting as technologies continue to develop that will inevitably disrupt the making and distribution of art in ways that before the Internet we never could have imagined.
This article began as a comment to a Facebook wall post: “Carter Cleveland Says Art in the Future Will Be for Everyone -The Artsy Founder Writes That the Internet Holds the Promise of a World Where Art Is as Ubiquitous as Music Is Today” (WSJ) http://online.wsj.com/articles/carter-cleveland-says-art-in-the-future-will-be-for-everyone-1404762157
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Judy Rey Wasserman is an artist and the founder of Post Conceptual Art theory and also the branch known as UnGraven Image Art at ungravenimage.com.
Check out the Fine Art Limited Edition prints, decorative prints, books, and printables that are currently available to you through Judy Rey’s Art of Seeing The Divine Shop. You don’t have to buy to avail yourself of the art and inspiration available there. However, if you select to collect investment quality archival art, or decorate your home with images created with strokes that are original letters from Bible texts, or buy a gift for someone special, there is a secure shopping cart that accepts most credit cards so your purchase is easy to accomplish. https://artofseeingthedivine.com