Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The World of Art

Paul Dorrell was commenting on the art scene in Colorado yesterday, and it got me thinking about how many sectors of the art market there really are. I read a lot of art forums and blogs, and I’m always amazed at how stratified the art world can be.

There’s the art scene in New York, which (from my vantage point in Colorado) seems to revolve on its own axis independent of the rest of the world. There’s the western art scene, which is centered around the big art markets in Scottsdale, Jackson, and Santa Fe. There are the more regional art markets, which tend to revolve around tourist traffic and more representational artwork. There’s the California plein air scene, which maybe gets a little more hype than it deserves (Isn’t it just painting outdoors? Why the fancy French name?). And so on and so on….

Outside of regional differences in the art market, there also seems to be a big divide between the world of contemporary/modern art, and that of representational art. Both sides seem to look down their nose at one another, as though the other isn’t producing real art.

Even within more specific subject matter, there are sides. In the world of portraiture, there are those who work from photographs and those who only work from life. While there are many who fit in between, those on the extremes are the most vocal, and the bickering between the two sides never seems to end. In landscape painting, there’s an ever-growing divide between the “plein-air” painter and the studio painter, and a lot of people seem to want to choose sides. As a landscape painter, it mystifies me – I paint outdoors sometimes, and I paint in the studio sometimes – what’s the big deal?

Considering that most artists are so passionate about art, I find it funny that we choose to align ourselves with different groups and choose sides. Then again, it makes sense that a bunch of people who are extremely passionate about what they do would be extremely passionate about defending their way of doing things.

I just paint what I love to paint, and sell it where people want to buy that type of work. I’m happy, and the checks are coming in, so I have no complaints. But I can’t help but wonder how much more visibility, support, and funding the arts would receive if everyone would quit their bickering and realize that we’re all working on the same thing in different forms…


  1. Great description of our art world, Stacers. I also find it comical that each "faction" looks down upon the others. I feel like my work straddles a few of these factions so I have certainly experienced various levels of disdain because my work is not plein aire or is too realistic or not realistic enough.

  2. Love this post. What a great summary of the different art markets. I think competition drives the disdain. There are more artists than galleries and serious collectors, thus petty debates about what real art is arise. I think many artists defend what they do by criticizing what they don't do and I have very little patience for it.

    Also, if one is a conceptual artist stuck in a very traditional market frustration and bitterness might ensue. Not mature, IMO, but I think a partial reason for the disputes.

    Competition between artists is age old though--Leonoardo and Michelangelo, Matisse and Picasso...

  3. Rob was talking about Modern Art the other day but what he meant by Modern Art was "art made in the 20th Century and newer." I was confused because I always thought Modern Art was stuff like... I don't know... ink blots and Andy Warhol. So non-artsy folk like me are definitely confused by all the division, as you suspect.

    I just want art that I want to look at. I don't care who made it or what "type" it is or what it means (especially not what it means -- uch!). It just has to look good to me.