Where is modern art going? Will we ever see another Michaelangelo, Da Vinci, Raphael, Modigliani, Picasso, Monet, Manet, Van Gogh or Pollack?
Logically, when you think of it in context, my instincts says “NO”… they were all innovators (paying specific attention to painting here) – pioneers, but has everything that can be done in the art of ‘paint of canvass’, already been accomplished. Of course that’s what the challenge is for today’s artists – to be the next big thing, to forge a new path, a new direction in their field.
Part of the problem, in my opinion, is that too many people want to be the next great artist… just hear me out here.
Here’s what I mean: The oldest art school in the world, still active today, is a little over two hundred years old, yet in its early days it’s pretty safe to say that few people knew about it (although art schools existed as far back as the Middle ages - VanEyck in Flanders f.e. 13 -1400's. (Michelangelo, just by the way, learned through early apprenticeships, first as a 13 year old working under Florence painter Domenico Ghirlandaio, and then under a retired sculptor, creating his first major sculpture at the age of 17 - The Battle of the Centaurs.)
Then you think about how many art schools there are in the world today, anyone with vague artistic flair can apply, and a percentage of those applicants will manage to forge a career in the art world, most finding their place, or niche, within the corporate/commercial world.
What this means is that art has grown exponentially in the last century, accessible to every household – which is, for clarification, a VERY GOOD thing. Many will argue that that was (and was for the renaissance crowd) the ultimate goal of those earlier pioneers – to bring art to every person. Art is part of life. Without art, the world would be an unliveable place for most. Plainly put, we need art as an outlet of our creative selves… the sad reality of it though, is that all forms of global art forms might have diluted the craft.
The trouble now is distinguishing the good from the brilliant, and then there are the blatant publicity stunts… (I’m not a fan of blank white walls or installation art – using light fixtures for instance). Media has played a huge part in the dilution of the craft.
I think there are many new forms that have popped up recently that grab me – performance art (using a large crowd of people) as well as sand art (creating pictures and stories using sand on an illuminated screen). And yet, can we say that there is a definitive new art form or artist/painter, who is doing something new and revolutionary, and will be talked about for many years to come, much in the same vein as the artists of old. I heard it put a different way: The experts and genuinely gifted artists of today are pushing the envelope – but are they just doing it in incremental fashion – a little at a time. Where is the giant leap forward (or sideways) in the thinking and/or application on creating something people have never seen before?
I admittedly am not on the pulse of what’s the most spoken about thing in the art world right now, but like many, am very receptive and attentive to it, always on the lookout for something that will grab my attention whilst also admiring the works of old.
When you think about it, Art as we know it today, where everyone can say they know an artist, is very new – yes it has been around for as long as people have – noting rock paintings etc… but artists in the truest and purist sense of the word were always rare and in certain places revered, they certainly were not on virtually every street corner, so in a way it’s a catch 22 scenario… you want art to be present in some form or another in every household, but I for one, still want that something new, which will be universally recognised as something no one has ever seen before.
The next great artist or art form (in the purest sense) will come from Africa. I’m not saying that just because I’m African but because I believe it’s the most untapped resource in the global context. Admittedly though, I do say this more out of hope and prayer.
For it to happen, something in the art industry must be corrected; that of the “classification system”. You may have, once upon a time, come a upon a curio in your day, I speak specifically of those wooden animal statuettes. You can go around, round up 100 to 1000 people and give them all a lump of wood and say “carve something that will sell” – I’m betting you’ll only find a couple worth keeping (let alone worthy of a sale), yet this industry (somehow has been shunted from labelled as sculpturing) is relegated by the art industry and labelled “Arts & Crafts”. Just because someone doesn’t own a degree or even a formal education (specifically in the Arts), does not mean that person’s work is less good, or less relevant. That individual was inspired by a variety of things, most times pure circumstance, whatever the case; the result is a piece of art which they have toiled over, more often than not with their entire livelihood at stake… Just the other day I saw paintings of a 5 year old American boy selling for thousands of dollars (and that with no tertiary training); hence formal education has little to do with the product.
It says something that practically all the great artists were poor in their day, some even trading their works for a meal… living, creating, day by day…
So, to conclude; on the earlier question of art stagnating, and thence the future of Art...
Art has been described as an indefinable and boundless thing/form, meaning the possibilities are endless, and as is so often the case when initially exploring a theory on a topic (in this case), one is enlightened and finds new avenues. Here's a quote of an artist friend of mine who was happy to share his opinion on what the future holds:
The next great artist and art form will be found in the digital environment, is my opinion. We are still in an experimental stadium... Technique is taking all over, so obviously this also will happen in art…
- Joachim Wilbers
Digital Art - (& mini Artist Feature)