Traditional Art vs. Modern Art

Traditional vs. Modern Art

In the past, traditional art used to be defined rather clearly. It should have been a painting or a sculpture of a beautiful object done in a realistic manner. The art styles varied but for a viewer an artist’s level of skills was indisputable. With the development of art definitions have become vaguer and encompass a broader scope of criteria (Adajian). Since the early twentieth century, modern art seeks to break all ties with traditional art and establish itself firmly. The rejection of the established cannon resulted in a confusion of a viewer what should be named art. Individuality becomes more important for an artist than his or her skills with pencil, brush, or chisel. Although art critics value modern art not less than traditional art, the loss of affectation from the general public results in a situation when more emphasis, or value, might be placed on traditional art of a culture than modern art of the culture with modern influences.

Taking into account a controversy with the contemporary definition of art, one can accept Arthur Danto’s assertion that whether something is art is determined by a representative such as an art critique or an artist: “nothing is an artwork without an interpretation that constitutes it as such” (Brown). It is up to the viewer to decide whether to accept the representative’s evaluation or not. To this effect, education and a general level of culture matter. Therefore, it is important to single out what the audience is. The viewer decides what value to ascribe to an art object. Thus, those people who appreciate figurativeness tend to place more emphasis on traditional art that is easier for them to understand. They see familiar objects portrayed in a real-life fashion, realize that they cannot do the same because of a lack of the necessary skills, and value an artwork according to the artist’s ability of the hand.

Meanwhile, modern art produces quite an opposite effect on the general audience. People often do not know what to make out of what they see; it is more difficult to evaluate the artist’s knack due to the viewer’s false feeling “I can also do it.” In such a case, the general public can choose traditional art over modern art. Hardly anyone can see many ordinary people able to appreciate Marcel Duchampt’s The Fountain, but it is an artwork crucial for history of art (Klein 998). Therefore, George Dickie says, “one must stress the conferring of the status of candidate rather than appreciation” (255). Inasmuch traditional art still is favored by both art connoisseurs and ordinary people, modern arts might have a lesser auditory due to the fact that many people claim not to understand it.

However, nowadays, modern art is growing in popularity and appreciation even with common people. It is facilitated by an exposure to the arts of other countries especially of indigenous people or less familial countries. For example, seeing a wide variety of styles of African tribes or Chinese avant-garde helps the visitors of exhibitions to widen their artistic horizons and eventually appreciate contemporary art of their country. Nowadays people become more knowledgeable about art due to the impact of the Internet. It is no longer necessary to visit museum if one has little time or money but still wants to become familiar with the developments in arts. Many museums provide such services (“Museum of modern art”). Meanwhile, the habit to search for value in a work of art is called by Kendall Walton “a somewhat parochial feature of the cultural surroundings of the fine arts in Western society” (3). There are societies which do not deem it necessary to ascribe art with any evaluations and are able to appreciate it, understand it and derive from it a wide range of responses ranging from emotional to insightful and cathartic. There is a growing understanding that appreciation of art should be cultivated and instilled from young age. Therefore, many schools and educational institution begin collaborations with museums to help children and young people form their relationship with art. The research reveals that the introduction of digital arts into school art curriculum increases the interest to art in children (Etherington).

In addition, there is an argument about “durability or longevity as an indication of aesthetic value” (Walton v). The traditional arts have already passed the test of time, while modern art is just to be seen over centuries to come. Museum might hesitate as to “Is it really possible to relate the most recently made art to works now more than a hundred years old?” (“Museum of modern art”). Traditional art might seem more popular and valuable because it is “part of an established order or accepted canon” while contemporary art still has to prove itself and its meaningfulness (“Museum of modern art”). In most cases modern art seems the art “whose history is not yet fixed, or fully fixed,” and therefore “any attempt to articulate a cohesive and concise narrative about such work is more likely to be provisional than definitive” (“Museum of modern art”).

However, when talking about art and its value one cannot overlook a very substantial issue of financial manifestations of an art’s value. Although the value of art is traditionally decided by the connoisseurs and art critics, one of the indicators of art’s value is the art market and auctions. In recent decades, modern art began selling better and at higher prices. While ordinary people may wonder at the pricing of art, the figures are truly staggering. In 2012, Edvard Munch’s The Scream was sold for 120 million dollars. In 2013, Andy Warhol’s Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) fetched 105 million dollars, while Three Studies of Lucian Freud by Francis Bacon went for 143 million dollars (Hook). To compare, in 2002, Ruben’s Massacre of the Innocents was sold for 49 million pounds (Hook). The value of art in terms of financial gain is influenced by many factors. Among them are an image of an artist (the more scandalous the better), recognizability of an artwork (people want others to recognize the painting in their living room), a popular subject matter as “portraits of pretty women will always sell better than those of gloomy old men” (Hook).

All the said demonstrates that there are at least two aspects in valuing art such as art as a commodity and can be sold and bought and art as an aesthetic pleasure (Van der Braembussche 32). It results in two approaches. The utilitarian approach demands to clearly define value and to limit it by economical models. Meanwhile, the anti-utilitarian discourse talks about aesthetics, art having “a value of its own” (Van der Braembussche 35). The traditional art is aesthetically pleasing, is recognized and acknowledged as financially valuable, and, therefore, it enjoys appreciation and acknowledgement on both sides. Meanwhile, modern arts have long been acknowledged by art critics and just begin enjoying public acceptance. Therefore, the appreciation of the public of modern art is increasing and soon will be neck to neck with traditional art.

People’s attitude towards art depends on many aspects. It ranged from an inborn inclination to the beautiful to a nurtured appreciation of the objects done by artistically minded people. On the whole, modern art might lose in the public love due to its complexity and unclear messages. However, the advent of the Internet, teaching art in schools on a deeper level, and a general exposure of the public to a wide variety of styles contributes to the growing appreciation of a break from the traditional cannon and, therefore, to modern arts.

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