A recent article by a lifestyle writer for the Scotsman, a daily newspaper out of Edinburgh, made a point about pop culture relegating high art to an outer edge that I’ve been meaning to make since Warhol outsold Picasso last year.
Making a case for high art, Tiffany Jenkins wrote, "Ours is an era of fun, time off and amusement; museums have fallen for the mistaken idea that people can understand by being entertained."
High art, she went on to say, is marginalized by the more popular arts. One of her many examples was the closing ceremony of the Olympics called A Symphony of British Music dominated by pop music like the Spice Girls, Emeli Sandé, Elbow, Jessie J, and Kate Bush. There was no classical work. They used the Welsh Rugby Choir and the London Symphony Orchestra but only to play the Olympic Anthem. There were no modern classical composers. No James MacMillan or James Dillon.
Bravely, Jenkins took a stab at defining the difference between high and low art, saying that it’s the difference between “reflective art and the more immediate work.” Entertainment is a passive activity, she said. It satisfies our need to turn off, to relax and to escape, but it doesn’t challenge us or tell us anything new
Perfect segue to the Campbell soup cans and Coke bottles of Andy Warhol, http://www.examiner.com/article/why-did-warhol-paint-soup-cans-coke-and-corn-flakeswho famously said, “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being fashionable or successful.”
Me, neither, Andy, just don’t call what you do art. That goes double for museums that tout your work, like your current show at the Hong Kong Museum of Art, said to be the largest touring exhibit of your work with 468 items. including paintings, drawings, photographs and screen prints.
Such attention from the art world is what’s prompting your sales of $2.9 billion last years, which beat Picasso sales. MoMA in New York had it right in 1956 when it rejected your drawing of a shoe that you offered as a gift for its collection.
If not extolling commercial products, you did it for Hollywood glamour, Andy. As you put it, “I love Los Angeles. I love Hollywood….Everything's plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic."
You got your wish, Andy.