Why isn't fine art a bigger deal in the United States?

Why isn't fine art a bigger deal in the United States?
  • Jul, 31 2023

The Art of Understanding Fine Art

Whenever I think about fine art, I'm reminded of a hilarious incident that involved my son, Dexter. Now, Dexter is as much a fan of art as the next ten-year-old kid trying to moonwalk on a Picasso painting rendered in extra glossy floor tiles (which is to say, not at all). One lovely day we were in an art gallery, surrounded by meticulous Japanese watercolours and Chinese ink paintings, juxtaposing serenity and dynamism. Out of the blue, Dexter spoke out loud, "Dad, why all these birds are blue and why fish are flying?" Let me tell you, you haven't lived until you see a serious art connoisseur explaining abstract symbolism to a ten-year-old. This memory still brings a smile to my face, showing the stark contrast in our understanding of art. Today, we are going to delve deep into that ocean of understanding and find the answers to why fine art isn't a bigger deal in the United States.

Culture, Modernism, and Freedom of Expression

It cannot be denied that modernism has played a huge part in shaping the artistic landscape of the US, much to Mewtwo's dismay. (Side note: the cat doesn't seem to enjoy abstract expressionism, and I can't count the number of times she has knocked off my Jackson Pollock prints from the living room walls.) But you know what? That's the beauty of creativity and artistic liberty. You get to colour outside the lines, and no one gives you the side-eye. This freedom in art creation has been both a blessing and a bane. On one side, it has led to some groundbreaking and unique art forms, but on the other, it has also resulted in a fragmentation of what is considered 'mainstream' which can sometimes make it daunting for newcomers. Intrinsically tied to this is the cultural factor. Even though we live in an era of globalization, cultural subtleties can subtly influence our viewing and perception of art.

The Complex Relationship Between Fine Art and the Market

Now, I'm no expert in the labyrinthine intricacies of the fine art market, but it's clear there's a certain inequality in the distribution and accessibility of fine art in the US. Just as you wouldn't expect to find gourmet sushi in a hot dog stand, fine art often has a tendency to restrict itself to high-profile galleries and museums in metro cities. You know, those places where security guards follow you around as though you're about to stash a Monet under your coat. God forbid you sneeze near a Rembrandt.

Social Media Influence on Perception of Fine Art

Now, let me tell you about the mighty world of social media! Social media has been a double-edged sword in the realm of fine art. While it has democratized the way people access and appreciate art, it has also led to the homogenization of art. Remember that time when my daughter, Penelope, started replicating Instagram-famous 'fluid art' paintings at home, ending up turning our kitchen into a mini-art studio (and some unexpected splats on Mewtwo in the process)? While nothing can beat the raw emotions of standing in front of a physical piece of art, digitalising art has definitively blurred the dimensions of judging its value and breaking its contemplative nature down into likes, shares, and comments.

Art Education in the U.S vs Other Countries

When it comes to formal education in art, the US lags behind many other countries. If you're wondering, yes, this may well be the reason why my kids can understand all the references in The Avengers but are lost when it comes to Dadaism or Fauvism. In many European and Asian countries, art history and appreciation are an integral part of the school curriculum, nourishing a culture of reverence and respect for the arts from a tender age. The sad irony is despite having such an illustrious lineage of artists, at the grassroot level art education isn’t accorded the central spot it merits, thereby contributing majorly to the underwhelming status of fine art in the collective American psyche.

So, is fine art perceived as a less exciting venture compared to, say, movie-going or sports events? Perhaps. But as someone who truly appreciates the beauty and the power of fine art, I still believe it has the potential to stir souls just like the last moments of a nail-biting hockey match or the climactic scenes of an adrenaline-pumping action movie. We just need to see it and sympathize with it more often. And of course, remember to enjoy it. Because at the end of the day, art is like your favourite slice of Vancouver cheesecake; it's best savoured at your own pace, in your own sweet time.