Is there just one art world?
Is there more than one art world? If so, how many? And how are they defined?
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7 thoughts on “Deep Thought Thursday: How many art worlds are there?”
Very likely there are numerous art worlds–just to begin with, one for each level of reputation for an artist: global, national, regional, local. There are probably more than one world at the local, regional, and national levels at least depending on whether you belong in the 2-D or 3-D realm, which seem to have different audiences and different dealers catering to them–in my observations. Even one’s medium belongs in a particular art world involving its own unique network and opportunities. I am interpreting the question about “art world” to refer to an “art community” of course: a set of linked relationships among all those involved with producing, showing, selling, judging, of art with a particular appeal. In a “niche market,” often one’s subject of choice becomes the centerpost for yet another art world, such as “horses” or “cats” or (as in my case) “maritime” subjects. In the mid-twentieth century, the media seemed to know of only two art worlds, really, New York and Paris. Even those two were intertwined in many ways, with Paris being where an artist went to study and New York City being where she or he went to sell! The ending of this era of this twinned monopoly was a major shift in the universe of art. Carol Lois Haywood, pacific marine artist
Let’s see, there’s the academic art world, the museum & high-end auction world, the gallery scene, the licensed-print world, and the art festival circuit. Many artists “clump” together with like kinds: street artists, graffiti artists, folk artists, plein-air societies, wildlife artists, western-art societies, portraitists, muralists, hobbyists. And there’s all sorts of other fields like faux-painting and decorative arts, to help blur the boundaries. Not to mention the entire universe of crafts. Outsider artists by definition don’t belong to any other “world”. How much overlap is there between different art worlds? Other than some association between academe and galleries, not much I think. Barbara
Don’t forget the graphic design realm, which has a lot of overlapping subcategories as well: typography, photography, printing, etc. Then there are really specific groups like poster designers who cater to a specific market of collectors.
Alyson, boy are you right about the art world being diverse. There are whole communities of artists and collectors grouped around a particular set of preferences that exist almost in isolation from each other. And often they are unaware of each other. I got a big hit of this last summer when Liz Hunter, Director of the Cape Cod Museum of Art organized a national conference on realist painting called Representing Reality. She had me come and speak on one of her panels. Her idea was to pair realists who come from the classical realist, atelier-oriented studio tradition with realist painters stemming from the more university-oriented modernist tradition (like myself). I’ve been really active in the painting world for 40 years, yet I got a glimpse of another side of the art world I’d barely been aware of. Fascinating stuff. Guess we are duty-bound to try to keep out eyes open as there is more out there than we know. And it is likely the first artists and collectors we bump into when we are just starting our journeys as artists may not be the best fit for us.
Since your question is not asking about one art market but one art world… my vote… …One art world. But what a very diverse world it is. Trying to define what the citizens of that world have in common is asking the most fundamental questions of the nature of art. Among them are: What is it we do anyway: Offer alternate ways of seeing reality? Offer new realities? Give humanity a transcendent visual language? Make pretty things? Foster nostalgia? Challenge standards of morality? Reach for the sublime? All of the above and infinitely more. As citizens of this one world we need to build a community that celebrates and supports each of our individual convictions of what makes art worth living for. We are very fortunate to have people like Alyson giving us that opportunity. Like Philip, I become more fascinated and excited about the art world as I explore it with eyes and mind wide open. As you said, Philip, “There is a lot more out there than we know.”
I go with “one world” too, but diverse, and I split it up like this: I just do my art for myself, I make art for sale (art widgets as I think one writer more or less called it here a while back – while of course I would argue that making art to make a living is hardly making widgets – better art widgets than office paper shuffling to support “real art” – another conversation), I make art to make a statement, I make art to push the edges of technique, I make art to belong to a community of artists, I make art to meet people and travel places. I’m sure there are more, but that’s off the top of my head.
All very astute observations. I like the “one world” concept, but I’m not sure that everyone would agree to be part of it. Don’t forget about the online art world. It’s just as diverse, but sometimes very separate from the bricks-and-mortar one.