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Art & Culture

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Published in "Legacy Online" December, 2003

Elite Appeal

There's a certain cachet to original art that appeals to people of sophistication, education, and taste.  That's one way to put it.  Another way is that art is for snobs.

I know an artist who recently had a big show in another city that was very successful.  The opening night of the exhibit the entire show sold out (WOW!  What a concept!).  All the 'best' sort of people were there, hob-nobbing and being seen.  The artist should have been thrilled . . . instead, he was appalled by the fact that no one was paying any attention to his art.  "They were viewing it with their backsides," as he put it.  It seems the patrons were buying his art because it was a feather in their cap to have one of his pieces in their 'collection,' giving them bragging rights among their circle of friends.  How much they knew about his work, or appreciated it for what it was, is debatable.

Now, patronage of the arts goes back into the very roots of human civilization.  The rich and powerful have always been a source of support for artists and artisans.  But I think that it is a mistake in this day and age for artists to appeal to just the elites of our society.  Sure, a $25,000 painting isn't the sort of thing that most working people are going to buy, and so it makes a certain sense to appeal to a wealthier market for those works.  But most artists, even very successful and talented ones, are never going to command that kind of price for their efforts.  Hence, it just makes practical sense to aim for a different market, and to not make original art the exclusive province of the rich.

Which is why from the very outset Legacy has been geared toward a different clientele.  We haven't tried to make ourselves some upscale, fancy, high-end New York style gallery.  Because were not in New York.  We're not even in the Central West End, or on the Plaza.  We're in a quiet college town filled with working people who have good educations, sensible ideas about investing in art, and enough aesthetic judgement to know what they like.  People who aren't rich, but who also aren't afraid to buy original art by talented local and regional artists so long as it is reasonably priced.

Artists who feed the myth that art is only for elites just hurt themselves and our civilization.  Art should be part of everyone's life (is part of everyone's life, really, though we sometimes ignore the fact that good design is a part of any successful product).  Pretending that certain kinds of art are 'above' the masses is just snobbery.  Sure, some people are going to like some kinds of art more than others.  I love modern, abstract works.  My wife can barely tolerate the stuff.  But that's an aesthetic preference, and at best a matter of education, not a measure of intelligence or sophistication.  Anyone who says otherwise is just selling something, or a poseur.

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