For the culture lover, the realisation (and you will have this realisation), that a fair share of your fellow human beings will simply never, never give a damn about the fine arts can feel more than a little disheartening.
No matter how you huff and puff and exclaim over the flat, fearless brushstrokes of the Abstract Expressionists, others less interested will insist they merely see some poorly mushed around paint that doesn’t even resemble anything. Donald Judd’s quadratic, minimalist achievements will remain stupid motionless boxes on the floor. The concept of an idea as an artwork? Oh, please. That’s like trying to suggest Picasso actually could draw and someone’s two year-old actually couldn’t do that…
People will see what they want to see. You can try to explain, in polite sputterings, the (not-just-monetary) value of an artwork. Its provenance, who influenced it and who it went on to influence, the social conditions swirling around its creator. When all the sputtering is said and done, the individual at whom you’ve been sputtering will still likely hold Duck Dynasty and those puffy-lipped Kardashian creatures in higher esteem than they hold Paul Gauguin or Jean-Michel Basquiat.
My advice? Save your breath.
Show them instead the following infographic by The School of Life that tackles the fundamental question, What is Art For?
Instead of dazzling those lukewarm about the cultural sector into submission with the dates, facts and anecdotes common to art history lectures, this video cleverly underscores all the ways art acts as a soulful tonic for the human condition.
Creating art helps us unleash pent-up emotions words can’t fully describe, viewing art lets us know there’s solidarity in every feeling we experience, from misery to ecstasy. Art offers new windows through which we can peer out on the world neighbourhood, helps pull focus towards the beautiful but easily overlooked details around us. Art is also a powerful force of propaganda; it can win others to our line of thinking with bloodless, even wordless, tactics. And art allows us ownership of infinite possibility.
So what will you do next time a friend shrugs off your favourite painting as an overrated wall hanging? Gently remind them it’s our shared creative endeavours that grant us the potential to be fully human.