Introduction There is an inherent conflict between the meaning of fine art, such as art that would be found in a museum, and commercial art, which his art that might be found in an advertisement. Specifically, the writer and art critic John Berger believes that commercial art is limited in what it can tell the audience, because the commercial art is not the product of a lived experience…
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This is because fine art is often esoteric and ultimately meaningless. Art critics might be able to find meaning in certain works of art, but they would be the only ones. The common man would have great difficulty understanding the meaning of a man's urinal used as artwork. On the other hand, commercial art is supposed to be understandable and accessible or, at the very least, evoke powerful emotions. For this reason, commercial art is more successful in conveying messages to mass audiences then is fine art. Discussion John Berger states that abstract art has been adopted by corporate capitalism, which is causing these aesthetics to become emblems of economic power. He says that, through this process of reducing the aesthetics of fine art into something that is used to increase economic power for the entity that uses this art, the lived experience inherent in the art work is eliminated from the image of the art. This results, in his view, in a reduced area of experience, even though it claims to be universal (Berger, 2001, p. 296). This process of commercializing fine art, and the subsequent way that this transformation has robbed the art work of meaning is particularly anathema to Berger, as he feels that art comes from a primitive part of the artist, and that it comes from the lived experience of the artist (Berger, 2001, p. 296). For Berger, drawing and art is about discovery within the artist himself (Berger, 2001, p. 10). The power of the art comes from this lived experience, the faith that this experience can produce the art, and this is typically coupled with a skepticism of the society in which the artist finds oneself (Berger, 2001, p. 297). Thus, in transforming art in commercialism, it robs the art of this lived experience which is the essence, the very heart of the artwork. The meaning of the artwork is dead, at least the meaning that the artist intended, and the meaning is instead transformed into whatever the particular advertisement is attempting to sell. Berger was also highly critical of the fact that paintings have become so commodified. He states that no work of art may survive without becoming a valuable piece of property, and that this spells the death of the painting and sculpture, as “property, as once it was not, is now inevitably opposed to all other values. People believe in property, but in essence they only believe in the illusion of protection which property gives. All works of fine art, whatever their content, whatever the sensibility of an individual spectator, must now be reckoned as no more than props for the confidence of the world spirit of conservatism” (Berger, 2001, p. 215). Thus, the fact that paintings and sculptures must be commodified to survive in the long term spells the end of the art as we know it, in Berger's eyes. According to Papastergiadis (1993), Berger's issue with the commercialization of art would stem from the fact that Berger contends that art must give meaning to human experiences. In particular, art works to increase our understanding of the gap between freedom and alienation in everyday life. He also states that Berger is a combination of a Marxist, in which the art is integrated with the political, thus is an
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