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The phrase "the art world" may be commonly tossed about, but that doesn't mean it's as clear as you say. "The movie industry," "professional sports," and "academia," aren't abstractions. 'The movie industry' describes the conglomerations of production companies, distribution companies and theater outlets involved in film production and distribution. 'Professional sports' are any organized sports played for money, and 'academia' describes the community of those involved professionally in research, education, and scholarship. On the other hand "the art world" is almost entirely an abstraction. Is it made up by only those who create art? Or does it also include those who appreciate art? If so, who is not a part of the art world? Does "the art world" include musicians or composers or novelists or only visual artists, and what about those who create art without pay? It's not really clear at all what "the art world" refers to, which makes it problematic when you try to condemn tendencies in "the art world." When you generalize that people in the "art world" deny that their work is entertainment and collect huge paychecks, you can ignore the fact that most artists aren't paid very much if anything and that many artists work virtuously, because the phrase "art world" doesn't really mean anything. And the post may have been a throwaway, but the age-old discussion about art vs. entertainment needs less provocation and more earnest approaches, especially on the internet. Provocative words without consideration only muddy the debate.
Toggle Commented Aug 2, 2011 on Art vs Entertainment at Only a Game
1 reply
I don't have a problem with your argument in principle, although I do disagree, but I do have a problem with the gross generalizations you use to support your claims. Let me say first that if you could use Ella Fitzgerald to approximate a modern Shakespeare, that would certainly bolster your claim that the most "effective" art springs forth historically from professional entertainers. But of course we both know Ella Fitzgerald, a performer with a wonderful quality of voice, is not Shakespeare, a one of the greatest poets and playwrights in history. I only hope the laughable list, "Shakespeare, Dickens, and Ella Fitzgerald" insults your intelligence for the sake of rhetorical convenience. To move on: Shakespeare was extremely popular in his time and is popular today. But his popularity does not really suggest, as you say, that "it is usually entertainment that has met [the loftier goals of art] more effectively" than non-commercial art. It does not bode well for your argument to say "if you examine the history," when you have examined history selectively to suit your claims. Yes, Shakespeare and Dickens were popular entertainers of immense artistic quality. But what about Van Gogh, or Emily Dickinson, or William Blake or Hart Crane, artists with brilliancies largely overlooked until after their deaths who certainly can't be consider popular entertainers, much less commercial artists? "People who work in the art world deny what they do is entertainment, yet still hope to collect gigantic fees." I'm sorry to disillusion you about whatever elitist high society conspiracy you may be envisioning, but there is no such thing as "the art world." There is only our one solitary rock, my friend. And people do "what they do" for a frustratingly complex variety of reasons. Yes, some people create art hoping to get rich or be famous, but many artists don't, especially those wondrous hordes that *gasp* you've never heard of. Some artists, believe it or not, don't get paid at all. Not every artist is a whore, even if it's convenient for your argument to say so. To bring my treatise to a long overdue close, I'll note what seems to me the most interesting claim you've raised, that art, like entertainment, is simply stimulation for it's own sake. But here's where I most fervently disagree. Art is to entertainment as nourishing food is to tasty food, which is to say they may overlap but aren't both stimulating for the sake of stimulation. It's a simple, maybe childish metaphor, but it will serve I hope for this essential point. Art nourishes us emotionally and spiritually and yes, intellectually. It has a definite societal and psychological value, even if that value can't be expressed in dollar signs. That art may also be tasty, as with Dickens and Shakespeare, doesn't make it fast food.
Toggle Commented Aug 1, 2011 on Art vs Entertainment at Only a Game
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