Why art is useful
Why is art useful? In recent years I have been asked some excellent questions about the nature of my work but above all about the scope of my interests. The most widespread has always been related to the usefulness of art.
So I decided to dedicate a post and a video to the usefulness of art in the section on ‘Myths to dispel’. To be found prepared with good answers!
So why pose this problem of utility only when we talk about art? Indeed, some of the reasons that drive us to watch a TV series, a football match or a video on YouTube are common to those that drive us to visit a museum or read a book.
In fact, in my opinion, there is always an entertainment, one of emotional participation and one of learning. Which makes all these actions only apparently useless.
Let’s see together 10 reasons why I think art is useful.
Why art is useful – 1. Art as teaching
Art can tell us a lot about our history and the birth of our culture and has often been used for pedagogical purposes.
Just think of the Christian paintings and mosaics or the stained glass windows of the most important churches created with the aim of passing on the stories narrated in the Bible to those who could not read. Or the story of the Buddha handed down from generation to generation also through its representation in sculptures or reliefs.
Historical works of art have always had the purpose of transmitting life and therefore history. Whether it’s the portrait of a fat gentleman or a queen or a naval fleet, there is always the will to pass on a message and remain in the collective imagination.
We would have no idea of the face of Napoleon or Queen Elizabeth I or of great artists like Van Gogh without the dozens of paintings that represent them.
2. Art as propaganda
And speaking of history, another widespread purpose of art over the centuries has been that of political propaganda.
There are hundreds of examples that can be given in antiquity but there are some that I think are more representative today than others.
The first is Uncle Sam calling us all to arms during World War I and World War II. I remember it was used at school by me for an election of school representatives, so much had it entered the collective imagination.
And the second most recent is the work of the American artist Fairey entitled HOPE which has become the manifesto for the elections of Barack Obama in America.
Why art is useful – 3. Art as meditation or devotion
We need to distinguish between the use of art for devotion and for meditation.
since childhood works of art for votive use: the paintings or sculptures in our churches are an example.
But the origins of these images of devotion are distant in history and certainly date back to antiquity if one thinks of the great sculptures of Zeus and Athena or the figures of the Roman Lares but also in the East of the sculptures of the ancestors who protect you even protagonists of cartoons Disney animated films such as Mulan.
Art as meditation , on the other hand, can be linked to the moment of prayer, but the very creation of the work a way for meditation. For this in my opinion he has a double role.
4. Art as entertainment
This form also dates back to ancient times, first of all the Egyptians and Romans linked some forms of art to entertainment or satire.
But later in time great artists made history thanks to this art form, just think of William Hogarth.
Well-known English painter of the mid-18th century who, in addition to being a subtle philosopher and aesthete, was above all a narrator of everyday life through the most extreme satire.
He represented scenes of everyday life with an all English humor and sometimes through really vulgar scenes, but very funny.
Even some artists of the ‘900 did not hold back in this sense and made satire andintelligent entertainment their trademark.
The artists of the surrealist movement among the first, just think of Dalì or Magritte and their inventions such as the lobster telephone or Breakfast in fur by Meret Oppenheim.
Why art is useful – 5. Art as therapy
Art can also be a form of therapy. Drawing or painting or in general creating something independently can be used not only to relax but also to cure some pathologies.
Art therapy is an increasingly widespread and recognized form of help for people with motor or psychophysical difficulties, but it is always good to rely on those who actually know the subject.
Because art is useful – 6. Art as an investment
The value ofart as an economic in response to all those who think that art is just a waste of money.
While stocks on the market in fact fluctuate and can even significantly change their value over time both positively and negatively, a true masterpiece if bought at the right price can prove to be an excellent investment.
It seems obvious if you think of big names like Monet, Bacon or Picasso, but it can also lead to excellent results in the contemporary world if you analyze the works and the history of the artist who created them carefully.
7. Art as a status symbol
Staying on the subject of the not exclusively artistic value of a work of art, let’s think of art as a manifestation of one’s position within society.
Kings and queens, earls and barons have always boasted of having supported or bought or stolen great masterpieces for their collections or for the collections of their kingdoms.
Even at the basis of the most famous and interesting forms of patronage there is in fact a need to affirm one’s being in the world. And, therefore, of one’s position and spending power. The best known examples are the Renaissance in Italy. But also the 17th century golden age of Spanish art or the France of Louis XIV with his Versailles.
And still today the accumulation and ostentation of great works of art is more than widespread not only among the nobles but also among great entrepreneurs and bankers in Europe and beyond.
Because art is useful – 8. Art for diplomatic purposes
Still in terms of major political actions but also of ostentation, the giving of works of art has always been a historically widespread custom.
In fact, during diplomatic meetings it is common practice among large nations, especially when there are reigning sovereigns such as the United Kingdom, to give away valuables. And art is often the protagonist of these exchanges.
One of the last was the one between David Cameron and Barak Obama. In one of their first meetings, they exchanged a work by street artist Ben Eine for a lithograph by pop artist Ed Rusha.
Why art is useful – 9. Art as advertising
Art and advertising have always gone hand in hand. In the sense that one has always had the features of the other in some of its forms and vice versa.
When you think of everyday objects represented in the art world, you first think of Andy Warhol. One thinks of his Campbell’s Soup or Coca Cola. But this cannot be defined as the true link between art and advertising.
Rather we must think of the posters of Toulouse Lautrec for the most popular clubs and evenings in Paris at the end of the nineteenth century.
But even funnier are the uses of works of art in contemporary advertising: Botticelli’s Venus who can’t resist in front of a Ferrero Rocher.
The Monalisa in a typical American restaurant with a slice of pizza or worse, the protagonist of a German advertisement for a dating site. Or even more subtle is the position of Rodin’s Thinker assumed by a child on the potty for an advertisement for Centrum, a vitamin supplement.
There are therefore many ways in which art and advertising can meet or collide.
Why art is useful – 10. Art as redevelopment of a territory
Last but not least the use of art for the redevelopment of a territory.
Great examples of this are Bilbao which has changed its face since the arrival of the Guggenheim but also Liverpool which thanks to the inauguration of its Tate in a former warehouse has managed to be one of the most interesting cities in England second only to London.
In fact, together with and thanks to architecture, which is one of its highest and most interesting forms, art can reinvigorate a place and make it fresh, young and alive from a cultural point of view. The same has been happening in Italy in my two cities in Milan for several years now and in Palermo only recently.
These are 10 of the reasons why in my opinion art is not at all useless. There are certainly others so if you want, write them to me here in the comments. Or write me on Youtube under the video, on Instagram in direct or on FB. Everywhere and maybe we’ll find 10 more to make the second part!!