Sunday, March 19, 2006

Home Decorations

Art is often seen as belonging to one social class and excluding others. In this context, art is seen as a high-status activity associated with wealth, the ability to purchase art, and the leisure required to enjoy it. The palaces of Versailles or the Hermitage in St. Petersburg with their vast collections of art as home decorations, amassed by the fabulously wealthy royalty of Europe exemplify this view. Collecting such art is the preserve of the rich.

However, there is a (not always deliberate) tradition of artists bringing their vision down to earth, and inhabiting a mundane, even poverty stricken, world. The life of Vincent van Goth is a classic example of this starving artist tradition. It hardly needs to be mentioned, however, that few find such a state of existence desirable, and (bearing in mind that "poverty" in this sense also connotes a certain lack of public approval or appetite) that one of the near-defining characteristics of artists is a desire to be seen universally, if not always to be understood.

Before the 13th century in Europe, artisans were considered to belong to a lower caste, since they were essentially manual laborers. After Europe was re-exposed to classical culture during the Renaissance, particularly in the nation states of what is now Italy (Florence, Siena), artists gained an association with high status. However, institutions of power as marks of their own status have always used arrangements of “fine” and expensive goods. This is seen in the 20th and 21st century by the commissioning or purchasing of art by big businesses and corporations as decoration for their offices.

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