The story of art: the cost of exclusivity in the digital age

The Story of Art

The Artist’s Struggle

Recently, I was chatting with my artist friend. In her opinion, there exist certain cultures across the world who would rather buy a piece of art than indulge in another dress. She says, while the clothing may be worn just once or twice or for an occasion, the art will stay forever. She was expressing her frustration on the “lack of art-minded” culture (for the lack of a better word) and her plight on her journey as an upcoming artist.  

I am not an artist. At least not in the classical definition of the way anyway, but I understand her frustrations in the sense that a “painting” for example is one unique piece. No other piece is exactly the same in this entire universe. Hence the steep price tags are justified by their unique value. In the huge myriad of things on this earth, there exists only one like that. Humans by nature have always wanted their share of exclusivity. Think of “limited edition”. From wine bottles to cars, from designer clothing to jewelry, limited edition, or in other words, exclusivity is the muse of the rich and powerful around those who can afford them.

“A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament”. — Oscar Wilde.

The story of art: Traditional and centralized art

The Story of Art
an image of a palace in Rajasthan

For centuries, art in the traditional sense has been centralized. The powerful people like the kings appointed artists and musicians in their courts. Art “artifacts” symbolized class, wealth, status, and elegance. A couple of years ago, I had visited Jaipur. As I strolled around the city palace museum I marveled at the beautifully engraved swords and the handcrafted gold embroidered dresses of the queen. From the cutlery in which they had food to the comb used to brush hair, they all marveled with timeless elegance.  In other words, even the mundane was wonderfully artistic.

The story of art: for the common people

The Story of Art

However, there exists a huge wide world beyond the realm of rich and influential – The common people. The people who work day in and out to make their living, to feed their families, to dream of one vacation, to buy new attire. And Art beyond traditional has existed here as well for centuries. These people had their own art- ones they painted in their walls (think Madhubani painting of Bihar), or the drumbeats to which they danced around in the campfires (Bihu dance of Assam). For many centuries artform practiced by the “common” people have been dismissed as not being exquisite, unique or extraordinary. These are popular art forms: for the people. A parallel could be “Baul music” vs “Hindusthani Classical”. The Baul singer, a ‘fakeer’ would roam around in saffron clothes and sing to the masses. There were never any concerts or exclusivity surrounding these performances. Similar stories are there for Sufi music. Today, these art forms get more recognition than before but still, they are not in the same leagues as the “elitist” art forms.

The story of art: in the age of technology

The Story of Art
A digital artwork

With the rise of the internet and technology, art has reached more people than it ever has before. And above everything else, new art forms are acknowledged or even created. For example, Makeup is an example of mainstream art. There are others: example – nail art, street art, tattoo art just to name a few! In this sense, every one of us is either a consumer or a producer of art. Perhaps both!

I guess there is still a broad difference between Art as paintings and sculptures, versus digital art or Henna art – The art for a purpose, versus art for decoration. There has been raging debates analyzing the “Purpose of Art”.  My friend said, “To me, the art that has no meaning and is just for the sake of decoration that evokes no thought is not ‘real’ art”. And I find this statement very ambiguous

The story of art: in my living room

In my living room, I have a random collection of assorted items. Occasionally, I arrange, rearrange and organize them. Most of these are very cheap and picked off of different places I visited. If you come to my home, you may find no joy seeing those random collectibles, they may not be art to you… but when I look at those, they remind me of my times spent in those places. I find these collectibles beautiful, and that beauty evokes joy in me! It is art to me, with a purpose nonetheless – purpose of evoking thoughts, emotions and feelings within me. 

I recently read an article where a Henna artist creates beautiful design on the bald heads of the cancer survivors, undergoing chemotherapy. I read some articles how some tattoo artists create tattoo in the breasts of women who have undergone mastectomy. These kinds of body art, even though stereotypically decorative in nature, need no further words to explain the purpose they serve in such cases.  So does decorative art has no value? I would argue it does. The value completely depends on the consumer of the art.

Coming back to my original point of exclusivity in arts. Do I have to possess an exclusive piece of art and showcase it to signify my love for art?  I believe the true value of art is unveiled if it reaches the maximum consumers. And I am definitely not the only one believing that. The psychology behind why platforms like YouTube or blogs or Instagram is successful is because, art is now being consumed at the different level all together. Storytellers, film makers put in so much effort to create movies and then they publish in Internet for free. The age of centralization, the age of funneling “the best” is left behind. With the onset of mass media, it has brought forward an age of mass consumption of art. From creating glitter sand arts, to baking and frosting arts, from makeup art, to creating DIY art, from poetry recitations, to stand-up comics all these artists want to showcase their work in the global platform.

In the age of decentralized media, art has caught up. The love of art has been channelized into “likes” and shares, comments and discussions. As a consumer, I derive joy from consuming art via my digital device. I am happy to stare at my tablet screen and notice the exquisite brushstrokes of an artist in their painting… I pay for the movie streaming service to watch the movies; I buy the books (also work of art) that I love to read. Anything that I consider beyond my reach, I consume digitally… I do not own the exclusive reading right for that, neither do I need it to enjoy it! Does that make me any less of an art admirer? I don’t think so. I am happy with my framed digital prints, and my paperback editions.

And as an artist (author):

“As my artist’s statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible and is therefore full of deep significance” – Calvin

About Moumita Chakraborty

Moumita is gritty and persevering, besides being a subject matter expert on anything she sets her heart to. Her writing style pins on her empathy for the subject and fluidity of thought. She is great with people, which makes her a fabulous feature author and a Partner Relations expert.

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Moumita Chakraborty

Moumita is gritty and persevering, besides being a subject matter expert on anything she sets her heart to. Her writing style pins on her empathy for the subject and fluidity of thought. She is great with people, which makes her a fabulous feature author and a Partner Relations expert.

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