Art worlds – Howard S. Becker

imageThis is a manual, with the purpose to teach to college students how an art world works. You won’t find here the definition of art or art work (that was, at the end, the reason why I am reading books about this subject), nor you will find deep explanations of specific contemporary art experiences or modern painting; even less you will read about the reasons of high or low evaluations of some art works. But this book, on a sociological point of view, will let you see better how an art world works.

We usually think that an art work is born through the mind of an artist, a special and talented person, who feels the need to put his emotions and fears and intuitions into his paint, photo, sculpture; but the reality is far more than this.

Art works could not exhist without a net of people who influence and help the artist, who evaluate the work, who define if it is art, who put them into museum, who keep them safe from the perils of the time, of the politics, of the wars, of the forgetfulness; art works could not live without people who sell it, and, above all, without a public who enjoy it (and most folk and naive art realities have a lot of problem on this point of view).

This is the part that enlightned me the most: the part where Becker explains how an art work can die.

A painting, a theatre show or a book can die because of censorship or, even worst, because of material destructions and prohibitions, of course; despite this, anyway, this is not a true death, because it is still possible that someone remembers some prohibited poems or, for example, keeps a picture of the painting.

The true death of a work art is forgetfulness.

After all, I think that an artists feels the need to do what he does for one big reason (among other minor ones): because he/she wants to leave something that survives after him. Because he/she feels that he/she won’t live forever and feel unbearable that all his/her thinking, emotions, fears and intuitions will die with him. This doesn’t mean that his/her artwork will always transmit his/her real intentions and message, because interpretation will change with time, but there will still been something that will witness his/her life on this earth. This is why forgetfulness kills artworks: because it kills the very first reason of its Birth.

We need to leave a sign because we know that we are mortal. Is this why animals do not create art? Well, after this reading, I have a big doubt: I fear that if there would be someone who decides that a painting made by a monkey is art, that blot could be considered art… but only if that “someone” is known as an expert, only if there is someone else who is ready to take that blot into his collection, and if there is a net of people who is ready to handle that work like an art work.

Well, I am exhagerating, of course.

Or not?

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