The Importance of Art
There has for long been a debate on the significance of art among people today. This is not surprising considering that art, specifically VISUAL ART has been created by people throughout the ages for various reasons, one of them being capturing scenes at a time when cameras were not yet invented. People who own or appreciate such art today are either those who have a genuine interest in them or have the means to own them.
People therefore express an interest in art for reasons that range from Commercial Value, to Personal Interests and rarely a Historical Significance.
With newer forms of artistic expressions gaining ground, a profusion of mixed media works and a gradual change in the art scene through the years, it has been found that paintings are fast losing the relevance that they previously held. They have become more of ITEMS OF DÉCOR than pieces that carry a CULTURAL VALUE. Art Historians, Art Collectors and a small percentage of genuine Art Connoisseurs are probably the only few who know about them and actually value art.
We therefore come to the eternally relevant question, WHY IS ART IMPORTANT? Is it just something that pleases the eye, or has it a significance much deeper and more meaningful?
To answer this, the dialogue from the recently released MONUMENTS MEN about Hitler’s plan to steal world art and keep them for himself, seems most apt.
As George Clooneys character in the movie says,
“You can wipe out an entire generation, you can burn their homes to the ground, and somehow they’ll still find their way back. But if you destroy their history, you destroy their achievements, then its as if they never existed.”
Yes, ART IS HISTORY, ART IS A PEOPLES ACHIEVEMENTS, ART IS THE ONLY WAY THAT THEIR LIVES WERE CHRONICLED, and that is why ART IS IMPORTANT.
To illustrate this point, let us take for example the work of Italian artist GIOTTO DI BONDONE (c.1267-1337), considered the first real painter. He was the artist who actually captured people’s emotions for the very first time through his paintings, a reason for subsequent artists to capture their subject’s expressions, thereby making paintings more engaging and personal. His works show insights into peoples lives, their engagement with others and how the society then frowned upon excessive interaction between people of opposite sex and his attempts to challenge that.
French artist PAUL GAUGIN (c. 1848 – 1903), a contemporary of Van Gogh, having suffered the staid and artificiality of European conventionalism, moved to Polynesia (present day Tahiti) where he painted the native people and their everyday life in vivid detail. His paintings from that period give an in-depth understanding of their life in general and religious symbolism in particular.
ANDY WARHOL (c. 1928 – 1987), an American artist, was a maverick of his time whom many artists including Picasso looked up to. Influenced by a changing society which was reflected in art, religion, music and a general way of life, this quirky artist created the POP ART movement. His works of art were an expression of the celebrity culture and advertisement that flourished by the 1960s, and which were visible in almost all his works.
The artists that are referred to above, haven’t just done paintings at random. They have done paintings that carry the history and relevance of their time, expressing it in myriad different ways. These works of art give a glimpse of how society was and has changed over a period of time and are a valuable tool for our generation to learn and understand, so that they can APPRECIATE ALL THE ART & ARCHITECTURE that still remains.