Recently I had the privilege of attending a talk from the University Scholars Seminar series by Mr. Kwok Kian Chow, director of the Singapore Art Museum. It was a talk on the challenges faced by the museum in obtaining rare pieces of art, portraying non-conventional pieces like seal carvings as art to the public and bringing more awareness to various art forms around the world.
One of his points which caught my attention was how art pieces no matter how minuscule, are dramatized and enlarged when they are placed within the frame of the museum. Art pieces showcased in a museum are perceived as having a greater value and recognition than before. This made me wonder, as the idea of “art” is so subjective and obscure, how does the museum select pieces that qualify to be showcased? I got the impression that the museum is similar to an examination body which passes and fails its candidates (in this case potential artists) based on performance. Those who pass get their pieces showcased and labeled as artists while those who don’t, remain as “aspiring” artists.
Frankly speaking, there are many art pieces (especially MODERN art pieces) which leave me wondering “Is this art?” and “How is this worth hundreds of thousands??”. In this era where everyone’s talking about web 2.0 being the new way the world works, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we took a “web 2.0” approach to art, one where the public is given the freehand to define art, one where they can nominate and vote for art pieces they believe deserve to be showcased in a museum.
In my opinion, a few things will happen:
1) No more kindergarten looking doodlings!
The following art pieces will definitely be left out in the cold. I personally don’t understand how these pieces can be considered as art. To me they are just a bunch of random scribblings which you commonly see little kids produce.
2) Picasso’s work left out in the cold?
I’d say that Picasso is one of the well-known artists among the populace who was the bridge between conventional and modern art. Picasso’s works consist of both modern and traditional art. However, when you talk to people about “art”, the image that goes into their heads are those of Mona Lisa, The Last Supper and beautiful imageries of landscapes.
Imagine we showcased some of Picasso’s more modern works without his name attached to it. Will the general public still consider them as art?
3) A BORING and biased museum?
Think about it, we might have a museum of very conventional, European-styled paintings and sculptures similar to the likes of Da Vinci, Rembrandt and Michael Angelo. Most of the pieces will be realistic looking, aesthetically beautiful, peaceful and non-radical. Non-radical because people in the past have been known to avoid/shun/despise radical pieces of works. E.g: The book on the Theory of Evolution by Charles Darwin.
The museum will be a more boring place than it already is because we might end up having very similar-looking/themed art pieces for DECADES. There will be no art pieces that make you work your brain like the INFAMOUS dot in the middle of a black canvas. Everytime I look at the piece, I try to understand how critiques came to claim that the dot depicts life. I stress my brain to find a connection even though I find it utterly ridiculous that people consider that art.
Coming to biaseness, As the general public’s perception of art is very European, we might leave out various lesser known art forms and styles from the rest of the world like Chinese and Batuan paintings.
These art styles and forms are very beautiful but as time goes by, they may be forgotten because people are less aware of their existence. Ever heard the saying that people are like herds of sheep, just following the masses?
Taking a “2.0″ approach to art may be both a good and bad thing. On one hand, the museum will be showcasing pieces which the public would like to see but on the other, there will be a tendency to favour the more conventional and widely accepted art forms and styles. Then again, I may be wrong. It’d be fun if someone tries this “2.0″ approach for an art exhibition some day soon, then we can see what the masses really think is art.