Men’s Health, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, FHM, Tatler, Aesthetica.These are all glossy magazines, full of information and compelling images, and I don’t believe that compelling is too strong a word for Jason Statham’s abs.They are just a pack of blue tack away from a bedroom wall montage.
However, I would be surprised if as many people had heard of Aesthetica as they had Cosmopolitan, or, indeed, at all. After all, Cosmopolitan offers to be “the lifestylist for millions of fun fearless females who want to be the best they can in every area of their lives” (sic), and provides indispensible advice on fashion, relationships, sex, beauty, celebs, not to mention your horoscope.
Aesthetica, on the other hand, “combines dynamic content with powerful critical debate, exploring the best in contemporary art and culture”. Aesthetica is a beautifully produced publication, and offers a microcosm of a current global art world, straight into your hands within a single magazine.
Cosmopolitan, on the other hand o f f e r s “Sex positions f o r beginners”, and b r e a k i n g news on Calvin Klein scented nail varnish. What would y o u spend your four pounds on? I’m not against Cosmopolitan, I need to learn about disaster-proof dating as much as the next twenty- something. However, I have been provoked into thinking about our culture of apathy towards art recently, because of the O.E.Saunders Memorial Lecture. This is an annual event, and this year is to be delivered by Germaine Greer upon ‘The Illusion of Authenticity: Aboriginal Art and the Crisis of the Market’.
Germaine Greer?!? She’s a proper celebrity! If you wanted any confirmation then think about the fact that she went in the Celebrity Big Brother house in 2005. Celebrity; it’s in the name. This is not to mention that even Bridget Jones’s crazy mum knows “Germaine sodding Greer”.
To announce this important event, there’s been publicity via Facebook, Twitter, Saintmail, fliers in Paperchase and Sainsbury’s, skywriting over West Sands, and #GermainegetsjiggyinScotland is expected to trend worldwide.
Okay, I may have exaggerated on the skywriting. In fact, I made it all up. There’s a poster, and it’s in the Art History building. I think it is safe to say that, of the whole student body, only the students who go into the Art History building in all likelihood study Art History. This could just be sensible advertising: choosing a market, selling to it and all that. Or it could just be limiting interest and access to information and opportunities, based on a presumed lack of interest. Not even the university sodding library gets a poster for Germaine sodding Greer.
This is not meant to sound like the crazed diatribe of the Matisse-obsessed crusader. This is about the fact that there is a self-perpetuating cycle of apathy and elitism surrounding art. Whilst it might seem illogical for art to appeal to those who are not interested, this subsequently means that there is an assumption that art is elitist, and not available for the average person to be interested in.
Major exhibitions and retrospectives at major London galleries rarely put advertising into the sphere of interest of those who would not already know of their happening. What about the galleries and artists who exist outside of the mainstream? Is nobody interested? Is the idea of looking at paintings, or going to galleries, really so atrociously boring that perusing the entirety of Netflix before realizing that anything you might want to see you’ve already seen is a more entertaining activity? No.
The issue is the mental separation of art from what is commonly considered to be cultural entertainment. This means that Aesthetica isn’t commonly available alongside the other glossy magazines in newsagents, seetickets don’t sell tickets to exhibitions alongside gigs, and art posters can’t be bought like DVDs. Art is not a separate and irrelevant part of culture, but a vibrant and important part of life. Art is not for the elite, or those who study it, but for anyone who wants to see it. It’s not art or culture, but Arts and Culture; it’s in the name.
‘The Illusion of Authenticity: Aboriginal Art and The Crisis of the Market’ is on Tuesday 14 May, at 4.15pm in the Buchanan Lecture Theatre.