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Posted on June 19th, 2012, by

The study of art history is very important to understanding the development of art and major trends that are typical to art. It should be said that art history provides ample opportunities to research art and analyze it in different historical and socio-cultural contexts because the art of different civilizations and of different epochs is unique, though, it is possible to trace some common trends in the development of art of different countries and even of different epoch. Naturally, this makes the research of art extremely interesting because it helps better understand the essence of art and its major principles of development. However, it is necessary to underline that the view on art is often affected by various biases and stereotypes which affect our perception of art and its history. This is why it is extremely important to evaluate objectively the development of art and get rid of subjective beliefs that determine our prejudice attitude to art.

In fact, it is not a secret that the modern works of art are viewed as the latest achievements of human civilization in the field of art. They are considered to be advanced, unique and modern. However, it is not always true that the art, in its traditional perception, developed in the linear, chronological way and that Western art was always in the avant-garde of the world art. In actuality, it would be more correct that western art was more widely spread and more accessible to the mass audience since western civilization is currently dominating in the world, its ideals, philosophy, and even the lifestyle of western people affect dramatically all countries of the world. Naturally, in such a situation, art is used one of the means of the cultural expansion of western civilization which attempts to present itself as the leading power not only in socio-economic or technological fields, but in the field of art as well. Consequently, the arguments of modern art critics and specialists that modern art, in which western trends dominate, is  the product of the western culture or, at least, it is the result of the current development of the world (Okoye 611). In other words, the modern art is viewed as a product of the modern culture. Moreover, I.S. Okoye argues that some critics indicate to the fact that modern art and the current art trends could not appear in any other epoch and in different social and cultural formation but the present epoch and modern society because modern art was formed under the impact of the current technological progress and profound social, economic and cultural changes (612).

Obviously, such an attitude to the modern and, therefore, to the history of art is not very objective. At any rate, the statements that the modern art is absolutely unique and it could not appear in any other historical context but only the present one are erroneous. In this regard, it is possible to refer to the research of I.S. Okoye, who perfectly proves the fact that modern art and the basic trends of the art of the 20th century are not really unique and, what is even more important, he finds out that some of the modernist trends could be traced in works of African artists in the epoch prior to the epoch of modernity (613). To put it more precisely, he analyses the works of art of African artists and he focuses his attention on the works of art of Oka tribe that helps him make the conclusion that the arguments of critics concerning the uniqueness of modern art are inconsistent and absolutely irrelevant to factual evidences.

For instance, he describes in details the representation of Anyanwu, the supreme deity of Oka tribe, and he underlines that its visual representation, created in the late 19th early 20th cc. strangely resembles the works of modern art created into considerably later period and this visual representation incorporated characteristics of visual art typical to work of Andy Warhol, such as Brillo Boxes (1964) or Green Coca Cola Bottles (1962). Andy Warhol could not influence the creative work of African artists. And, in contrast, to arguments of all critics, these works were created in the context which had little in common with modernity (Okoye, 615).

In such a situation, the conclusion made by the researcher, I.S. Okoye, seems to be quite logical. In fact, he argues that the current approach to the history of art is erroneous and it has to be changed. To put it more precisely, he stands on the ground that the current ethnocentric approaches to the research of the history of art and ethnocentric concept of aesthetics and its interpretation should be replaced by de-ethnicized practice and he concludes that this alternative will give three basic advantages to the history of art, its research and interpretation: firstly, the de-ethnicized practice helps better understand how aesthetical object-making in different places and culture was influenced by the surrounding context and how different objects acquire their meaning in different societies; secondly, this will contributed to the open-end exchange between different cultures and will stop the hegemony of one culture, i.e. western culture, which dominates at the moment; finally, this will contribute to the growing heterogeneity of approaches to history of art and interpretation of art (Okoye, 615).

At the same time, it is also necessary to remember about the significant role the art may play in our life. In fact, the change in the interpretation of art and art history and the shift from the biased attitude to art to more objective, diverse and heterogeneous should be accomplished by the change in the total change of the perception of the role of art. What is meant here is the fact that art may play a very important social role (Wilson, 2). In this regard, it is necessary to pay a particular attention to museums whose role was often underestimated or simply misinterpreted.

For instance, F. Wilson argues that museums were traditionally perceived as a real estate, as places where people could just observe different objects of art, but, in actuality, museums possess a consistently larger potential than just a real estate where works of art are stored and exhibited. In fact, museums may be the center of cultural life and the major elements of the artistic life of society because artistic works that can be accumulated or exhibited in museums can make these institutions very important medium to convey the art to masses of people. F. Wilson underlines that museum should not be viewed as a real estate but rather as a state of mind of an individual (1).

It is obvious that art could not exist in isolation from the audience. In such a situation, art would be not only useless but it could not simply survive because it is the means of communication between the artist and the audience. In such a context, museums may fulfill a very important social function because they can exhibit very interesting works of art that can attract a large number of people. It is very important that museums should manage to change its traditional, conservative image of institutions where people cannot get really interesting and fascinating information and where they cannot enjoy aesthetically. In contrast, museums should convey the best pieces of art to the mass audience that will make art closer to ordinary people and, in such a way, the art, by means of museums, could fulfill a very important social functions, being a source of the formation of aesthetic tastes and preferences of the mass audience and development of a positive attitude to art. Obviously, with the help of museums people can really learn to appreciate art and beauty and, what is more, they can learn to find beauty in ordinary objects, which surround them in their everyday life.

Thus, it is possible to conclude that the current attitude to art, its history and interpretation, and the current place of art in the modern society does not fully meet the potential and purpose of art. In this respect, it should be said that art should become a source of cultural education of people through representation of the variety of cultures depicted in works of art created by different people in different epochs and it is important that art could be accessible to the mass audience through museums.

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