Is Art Elite or For Everyone?

Four You Gallery
October 9, 2021| Christine

“I think that art’s for everybody and everybody’s entitled to the best culture, the best literature, the best education, the best that everyone can have.” – Tracey Emin

When I was younger, “art” meant taking a pencil to a piece of paper and coloring with the rest of my classmates. As I got older, my perception of art changed, and I started to see it as something beyond what I originally thought; I started to see it in terms of fancy galleries and pieces worth millions of dollars. The older I got, the more “upper class” art felt; the more complex the idea of art became and the more separated I felt from it in comparison to when I was younger. Over time and as a result of different conversations with people stemming from different backgrounds, I’ve realized that the same is true for a lot of people who feel like art isn’t “their thing” and that it’s too “elite”. It appears only those people with more privileged upbringings are the ones who have ‘access’ to art for the simple reason that pursuing a career in the arts requires sufficient financing. But where does that shift in perception happen? Is art elite or is it really for everyone?

Claire Idera-In a Clouds, 2021-Oil on canvas-69 x 61 cm

Everything goes back to the definition of “art”, which is the expression of one’s feelings, emotions, and ideas. Nowhere in that definition does it say anything along the lines of “only the financially privileged are to have access to art”, right?! Didn’t think so! Some of the greatest artists throughout history had no financial backing when they set off to start their careers and remained poor throughout the majority of their lives. Modigliani is an excellent example of this, so is Da Vinci. Da Vinci sold one painting before his death for the equivalent of $109 today – the irony!

Vincent van Gogh, Starry Night, 1889, Oil on canvas, 74 x 92 cm

Even when it comes to appreciating and collecting art, there has been a misconception that only the elite or wealthy get to do either of those things. With that misconception has come a feeling of Imposter Syndrome for art admirers and enthusiasts who are not as “well-off” because they feel a lack of confidence when vocalizing their tastes or preferences out of fear of being judged or told that they don’t know what they’re talking about. Quite often they steet clear of art galleries or conversations about art because they don’t want to be made to feel inferior, like they don’t know what they’re talking about, like they don’t ‘get art’. “People need permission to live with art.” – Jen Bekman, CEO and Founder of 20×200. People need to feel like their opinions and perspectives are valued. The good thing is that with art becoming more readily available through different mediums and at different price points, the art industry’s barrier to entry has lowered over the years.

Lesego Seoketsa-Busisiwe (Blessed one), 2021-Acrylic and spray paint on canvas-58 x 74 cm

The fact remains that some people are simply exposed to different resources in their lives and while that may be true, the world we live in today is unprecedented in its accessibility and availability of almost everything to almost everyone. While there are different classes of artists and collectors alike, the main purpose of art is its applicability to anyone with an interest in it. So, is art for everyone? To each their own taste!

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