Sunday, 18 August 2013

Some Recent Art News

Art Everywhere

The Lady of Shallott by John William Waterhouse on billboard display.
Src - Art Everywhere 

On August 12th a nationwide exhibition opened to the British public. It was to be known as Art Everywhere, a project funded by donations from ordinary folk and businesses alike, it's primary aim being to bring art out of galleries and to the masses. Where perhaps a hamburger or fashion chain advertisement used to be, now a Millais or a Freud sat. Where once people were being persuaded to go and see the latest blockbuster whilst waiting for the bus, there was now a work by Kapoor or Ofili. 
However, though being billed as one of the biggest exhibitions of it's kind, there seems to have been very little buzz generated for it. On the Art Everywhere website it says that there have been 30,000 Facebook likes and 'over a thousand individual donations' from people 'around the world', which doesn't really seem to be such a substantial contribution. For something which spans from Cornwall to Caithness, you'd have thought that it would have had more backing. 
In addition to this, the reviews from the public haven't exactly been shining. BBC News reported that it had asked people around the UK what they thought of the project and how they felt about seeing art outside of galleries. Whilst speaking to someone sitting next to David Hockney's 'A Bigger Splash' at a bus stop, they were given this response:
Asked how it compares with images that usually appear on bus stops, he points out that Hockney is in competition with normal adverts that are still dotted around. "It just blends in," he says. "The first thing that grabs your attention [with an ad] is the text. - src
A very valid point, in a world already overcome with images, how would someone be able to tell what is classed as 'art' when it is sat beside pictorial advertisements? This view certainly seems to support the idea for galleries, however, it was also reported that he said 'he was not in to art and does not know what to think of the picture'. 
Reading this, I wondered why people felt such a disconnection to art and why this particular idea of making art more accessible wasn't being viewed with more excitement. Was it because of a bad advertising campaign for Art Everywhere that there had been such a lacklustre reaction? Or could the reason behind the meagre donations be because the British public just isn't that interested in the subject as a whole? Though there had been a couple of days of #art trending on Twitter which may have been due to the exhibition, there didn't appear to be much of a fanfare for such a big project.
Personally, I have always seen art as a way for humans (no matter their technical skill or background) to express themselves and to share and relate those feelings with other people, but there appears to be a distinct undercurrent of elitism and pretension which possibly gives people, like the young man above, the view that art isn't for them. He could of course just genuinely be uninterested in art, but it's such a broad and ranging subject that I find this hard to believe and even harder to believe that he wouldn't have at least had some opinion on a piece. 
When you think about who owns some of the originals of the artworks on display, there remains the idea that only the very rich can afford them, and that the most accepted way to judge what makes 'good art' is via the choice of wealthy collectors and critics. Perhaps due to this people feel disengaged from 'high art' and are eliminated from having their own views because of snobbery and fear of 'having the wrong interpretation'. 
By bringing art to a wider audience could Art Everywhere break down these barriers? Hopefully the pictures will provoke new found interest and bring more people in to galleries, or at the very least give them more ability, out in the open, to express their opinion on pieces, away from the denigrating looks of those who think they know better.

Recommended read: Emin and Lucas - The Shop

Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas were part of the Young British Artists group of the 1990s. They became two of my favourite artists, due to the openness and down-to-earth attitudes visible in their works. Through these works, Emin would 'speak' in a revealing and honest way, that some found shocking, about past relationships and Lucas came up with some simply fantastic feminist critiques on how women were viewed, one of my favourites being, 'Bitch'.

'Bitch' (1994)
Src -
And although they may have been the protégé of Saatchi, it didn't stop Emin turning up drunk to a talk on Channel 4 with other more humourless, out of touch members of the art-world as an enfant terrible, and practically telling them to fuck off because she was going to spend time with people who she actually liked and related to. 
I was therefore very interested in this recent article via the Guardian where Emin and Lucas wrote about their experiences with 'The Shop', a place which they owned and sold works from, in London in 1993. They would create somewhat controversial and puerile items that reflected the upcoming rise of post modernism and 'ladette' culture, and then sell them for the price of their 'next pack of cigarettes' or their next rental bill for the shop.
'We drew labels on ribbons that said "Help me" and "So boring". They went inside your coat, attached with safety pins. When you were out and got trapped in a difficult conversation, you could flash the label to a friend to get help. They cost 50p.' -src
It's amazing to think how much this sounds like a precursor to Etsy, quirky, hand-crafted items going for cheap. 
Though popular, it mainly served as a place for Emin and Lucas to socialise and 'The Shop' eventually went out with a bang after a 'massive, crazy closing party'. 
I'm going to stop here because the words sound so much better coming from the artists themselves and I would recommend reading this article for yourself because not only is it fascinating, but it also serves as a reminder that art shouldn't just be about the commercial, how famous you can become or taking everything seriously but that it's also good to create, to commune and share and to have as much fun as possible doing it. 

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