Elitism: The Greatest Enemy of Art

Unfortunately, the art news that most often makes headlines is about record setting prices for fine art pieces sold from the biggest auction houses in Europe. We see historical pieces by the likes of Picasso or Matisse sell for insane price tags, and even witness modern artists fetch a couple million dollars for what at times amounts to a single red dot on a canvas.

Damien Hirst, ehemm.

The obvious thought is: wow, that’s fucking ridiculous.

The second thought is: if that’s what art is, then it must not be for me.

Both thoughts are fair assumptions. While fine art galleries around the world do their best to justify prices only the 1% can stomach, there is a vast sea of art being created & sold by artists from all over the world who make works that are a lot more relatable, which are priced to be owned by someone who doesn’t make six figures.

Whether astronomical price tags, aloof gallerists, or art that feels opaque & inaccessible, all these factors come together to create a perception of the art world that is elite, expensive, and snotty. It doesn’t have to be that way.

As a lover of creative experiences & Founder of a nonprofit arts organization, nothing irks me more than stereotypes like the one I just described.

Not because they’re undeserved. They’re very deserved.

The fine art world has pigeonholed art as a whole. It’s this elitism that has communicated to the rest of us, “You’re not meant to enjoy this. It’s not for you.”

As a result, we walk away, don’t engage, and leave art in the margins.

While this elitism surely helps Sotheby’s or Christie’s command ridiculous prices for works that may or may not be worth it, it does a massive disservice to every other artist trying to make a living inspiring the people who can’t afford to spend their child’s college tuition on a single painting.

All that said, I encourage anyone who loves music, thinks murals are cool, or has ever been inspired by a creative act, experience, or production, to move right past the gatekeepers of elite art and celebrate the things that move you.

Buy that art print at the street festival, commission that artist you met to make your next event poster, or connect with local galleries that promote art that won’t make you late on your mortgage payments.

What the square-rimmed eye glass people don’t get, is that their own desire for status is what keeps art on the fringes.

What’s more, by positioning fine art as part of a social class that must be bought into, we create a general climate in society where people don’t value art because they see it as frivolous or impractical.

We can take the power of art back by redefining what an at patron looks and acts like.

The fun part is: we get to do it one affordable, colorful, impassioned artwork at a time.