My thoughts on the Value of Art

There’s been a lot of chit chat online about the value of art and the importance of those involved with the arts being paid. I thought I’d chuck a bit of my nonsense in. Why not?

Whilst I was studying for my MA at Lancaster Uni I had to write an essay (the cheek of it) and I had to write my own question too (I know, that’s just lazy) So I did. I’m just gonna fess up right now and say that I probably don’t deserve my MA. The reason I say this is because when asked to write my own question I decided to try and be really clever and deep. I could have written about anything but I chose the following question…


What is the purpose of Art?


I’m just gonna let the idiocy of that question sink in for a moment.


As idiotic as it is to try to answer that question in a 5,000 word essay, I think that the answer(s) to it are tied in with the issues here.

Another quick confession, my post is a sort of stream of consciousness, so I will make some very weak points and the conclusion could get a bit confusing/pointless. That’s how I like life to be. So please don’t abuse me for it.

Funders and philanthropists have an urge to assign a value to art, to assign value they need it to achieve something. I am fully behind Art that makes a difference. I like that it can cause social and political upheaval. That it can change people’s lives and that it can simply make its audience view the world in a different way. That is all great.

My problem is that people, and by this I mean the people with the money behind the Arts, have forgotten that Art doesn’t need to do any of that to still be valuable. For example, was there any political upheaval after The Mona Lisa was unveiled? Did Shakespeare do anything to change the society of England when he was writing? (This is what I mean, there is a good chance that the answer to that question is yes, if so please let me know what it was) Did Dali incite a revolution? (I really hope he didn’t, that would be a fairly glaring mistake to make) As far as I am aware there is a massive catalogue of great artistic works that have been viewed countless times and are worth ridiculous sums of money and a great deal of these would, if they were to be created now, not fit into the bracket of “Valuable Art” in the current environment. So this is basically an argument for Art for Art’s Sake. There is very little room in the Artistic Industry for Art that simply contributes to culture.

Of course I am not suggesting that such work no longer exists, it’s just harder to come by, either because it is relegated to The Fringe scene or because it is so expensive that it cannot be experienced by anyone who earns under a six figure salary. Again I am not saying this as an absolute; I’m just saying that Art that exists for its own sake is harder and harder to find and to successfully create.

I think that if there is to be a reassessment of how we view the value of art and those that create it there needs to be something of a reversion to the times when beauty was appreciated for being beautiful and not for the things it achieves with its beauty. Also I’m not saying that we abandon the idea of art that achieves wider goals, which would be a terrible suggestion. Essentially what I’m saying is that (and this is why it was silly to try and find and explain the purpose of Art in a 5,000 word essay) there are so many things that Art does but only relatively few of those are seen as valuable, which is just plain wrong and could be killing or simply hiding some amazing works that we will never know about.

I did tell you that this would not be a particularly strong or even understandable contribution to the discussion so if you have read this far, you can’t really complain. I delivered what I promised.