THE BLOG

Does The Art Market Value Traditional Art?

08/03/2012 05:22 pm ET | Updated Oct 03, 2012

I truly appreciate the import of your message, Mr. Goldman. BRAVO, but I think the art market bears some responsibility for why students don't think that any form of "traditional" or "classic" art is valuable. Look at what gets reviewed by the art critics; or shown by the art galleries; or talked about in the art magazines; or touted by the museums ordained to be the cutting edge and contemporary -- very few give any respect or attention to any artist doing work today that is literal, figurative, still life or landscape, no matter how good they are.

It is almost as if the word "contemporary" has another meaning when it comes to the creation of art during one's lifetime. As a result, art teachers push students toward "make it different" before they have mastered any technique, because they too have learned that they won't get attention unless what they do is different, regardless of whether it is any good. It is the art world, not just the art schools, that perpetuates to young people that classical forms and technique are not valued. The art world teaches them that their work, at least for most of them, will not be valued until long after they are dead, so don't waste your time doing anything that could be viewed as traditional. It is as if a very expensive and finely made coat that you bought last fall can't possibly be chic enough to wear again the following winter -- until twenty winters have passed and some self-proclaimed culture czar declares that it is time to respect the old or the previously ignored as if it were new and encourage everyone to want it as if it is a new trend! We do that to young people as artists and as art viewers.

Sadly, this pattern very often has an even greater impact on artists of color who, yes, work in abstract. These artists also often do political and socially conscious work, sometimes making powerful, culturally specific statements through work that is less than abstract -- whether it is in oil, watercolor, pencil, charcoal, collage or sculptures made of bronze or wood, etc . If the highly talented, well-respected and good artists who work in these mediums and styles can't get the press/critics to pay attention to their work or exhibits, why should we expect young people to think that it is a valuable thing to do?

We have a combination of all of the above and abstracts too in the galleries of the California African American Museum -- and many by artists that that live in our collection that are occasionally showed at other museums whose exhibits you review all the time. Our exhibits are always changing and the artists and histories that we share are widely varied -- old and young. Come out and visit us sometime; there is a place for all aesthetics and voices in our museum and we would love to show you around.