What is contemporary fine art culture?
The 7 disciplines of fine art: “art for art’s sake”
To define contemporary fine art culture is first to define culture. Culture is how societies inform their lives via specific behaviors and schools of thought. Every culture and subculture determines what is “normal” or “acceptable” to them. And it is through this multilayered lens, that individuals determine who they are, who they will be, how they self-actualize, when, and why. The “fine” in fine art, was also meant to denote the unadulterated artistic expression, requiring no actual function.
The main purpose of fine art was to essentially add beauty to society. At this time the art did not need to be useful like say, a frying pan would, but just present as elegant and beautiful. This notion often brings a phrase coined by French poet Théophile Gautier, “L’art pour l’art” meaning “art for art’s sake”.
Art for art’s sake is a discourse in itself
According to Zolberg the historical-cultural importance of the discipline of fine art was first introduced and cultivated in Europe. Fine art was purely a social construct underpinning the socioeconomic and the political. It increased in importance when sovereign nation-states began forming. What became central to the sustaining power of fine art was the communication that developed around it, which can be seen in contemporary controversial art exhibitions like the 1995 Tracey Emin, Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-1995, the 1989 Guerrilla Girls, Do Women Have to be Naked to get into the Met. Museum?, and the 1917 Marcel Duchamp, Fountain.
The dialogue surrounding certain fine art forms according to Zolberg ultimately determined which forms were considered worthy of high honors and deemed most superior. These designations later afforded certain art, association with those of high standing in society, the elite, and the wealthy. By this time development of methodical systems common to the art world was institutionalized officially and used in the acquisition, preservation, storage, and exhibition of art.
Icons of fine art
Now, usually, when one thinks of some of the most iconic names in fine art a list of male names can be rattled off. Think Pablo Picasso; renowned for cubism and disfigured or distorted portraiture, Leonardo Divinci; painted the popular Mona Lisa, Michaelangelo; famous for the Sistine Chapel, Vincent Van Gogh; Starry night, Salvador Dali; worked in surrealism and is recognized for the melted clocks in the Persistence of Memory and Jackson Pollock; abstract expressionism inkblots.
This list can certainly go on, but there are a plethora of women that must also be remembered for their contributions to fine art culture. Élisabeth Louise Vigée-Le Brun; Marie Antoinette portraits, Georgia O’Keeffe; abstract flowers and New York skyscrapers–The Radiator Building, Frida Kahlo; folk art self-portraiture style, Mary Cassatt; impressionist style, and Tamara De Lempicka; art deco high stylized paintings.
These artists paved the way for Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Keith Haring. However, today contemporary fine art is more than just painting and is defined by 7 fine art disciplines: painting, sculpture, architecture, poetry, music, literature, and dance.
The 7 Contemporary fine art disciplines
Painting is a type of fine art that utilizes pigmented colors by applying them to canvas, paper, or any other flat surface with or without a paintbrush. Oil, acrylics, watercolors, or pastels may also be used. Fine artists have been known to employ anything from chapel ceilings, glass windows, dumpster-dived couches, to old closet doors as painting surfaces. This area of fine art includes drawing, usually with pencils, markers, paint markers, charcoal, crayons, and chalk.
Sculpture is a visual art defined by the artists shaping, molding, and forming, shapes, and figures. The freedom of sculpture is the varied materials that can be used to do this such as stone, wire, metal, bronze, ivory, wood, plastic, clay, and other unique mediums to create structures and forms. Some unique contemporary sculpture exhibitions have even used pieces of clothing, colored pencils, and pennies.
Architecture is the study and the design, planning, and construction of buildings, often based on different time periods such as Victorian, Gothic, Plantation, Colonial, or Greek Corthinian. Today, some common architectural styles that may be recognizable are American Craftsman, Mid-Century Modern, and High-tech architecture of the 21st century. More contemporary architecture designs are expressive and sometimes represent everyday items, such as the 1.5 billion dollar Hollywood, Florida Hard Rock Casino, The Guitar Hotel.
Poetry is a form of literary writing which utilizes rhythm or freeform styles in the expression of thoughts and feelings. Poetry can be written about anything from the social to the political, romantic, and natural. Some forms of poetry call for specific syllables, lines, stanzas, and meter. They can be extremely simple or complex, utilizing literary techniques and figurative languages such as metaphor, similes, hyperboles, personification, and alliteration.
Poetry has also evolved to include the more contemporary, spoken word poetry having its roots in the Harlem Renaissance, Beat Poets era, Call and Response of African culture, and competitive poetry slams for youth and adults. Poetry is often paired with the fine art forms of painting and drawing, sculpture, and dance. Some of the world’s most renowned poets are Rumi, Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Gwendolyn Brooks, Maya Angelou, Amiri Baraka, Gil Scott-Heron, Nikki Giovanni, Asia Samson, Nayyirah Waheed, Rupi Kaur, and Jasmine Mans.
The purpose of music is to vocalize or use instruments to express feelings, thoughts, and harmony. The universal language of music underpins many world cultures and is a source of historical narrative storytelling. Music is a form of rhythmic communication involving various instruments such as percussion (yes, this includes the Piano), woodwind, brass, and string. Music is accompanied by lyricists on many occasions, or without and falls under several genres such as Blues, Jazz, Folk, Reggae, Country, Hip Hop, Opera, Classic, Film Scores, Indie, Techno, Rock, Classic Rock, R&B, Trance, Heavy Metal, and Gospel.
Literature is comprised of the written word and associated with a collection of written work. It does not denote anything specific in its most barebones definition, only that the work be a written work respectively. Literature is further recognized as books, magazines, and plays; falling into genres such as Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Short Story, Flash Fiction, Mystery, Romance, Science Fiction, Essay, Memoir, Crime, Speculative, Anthology, Epic, Fabel, Autobiography, and literature by language eg. French Literature, Latin Literature, and German Literature.
The performance fine art form of dance is the use of the body for expression of thought and emotion, with or without music. Dance is often pre-choreographed, rhythmic, sequential, and cultural. Types of dance are Ballet, Modern and Contemporary, Jazz, Ballroom, Hip-hop, Folk, and Performance Art.
Ironically, the 7 fine art disciplines are extraordinary in that they are free enough to at some point evoke one another yet complete enough to stand strong on their own. But, altogether an onlooker can witness 7 disciplines working in unison, or 3-4 of the 7 disciplines forming one work of art, such as in a play that utilizes the spoken word with poetry, music and vocalizing, dancing, and the architecture of the sets. This is indicative of how fine art sustains itself, with itself, but must also be intentionally sustained by society.
Keeping fine art education alive
In order for the fine art culture to continue to stretch its legs, grow, and transform, it’s essential education in the fine arts continues to be supported. Often times fine art education and programming get the short end of the stick, despite that it has been a main source of conservation of history from the beginning of time. It is necessary that come whatever budget cuts or low prioritization, certain aspects of society give to fine art, that those who love and honor it come together to ensure it’s staying power.
Organizations like the South Florida Society for Arts and Culture are necessary to continue fostering artistic expression in generations to come. Without these outlets intentionally missioned to cultivate creativity, contemporary fine art would be in the lurch.
Art-Collecting is a great resource for anyone interested in exploring fine art culture. As a directory and repository for all things contemporary fine art, it is a go-to for those who want to understand Florida’s contemporary fine art culture through an exploration of various Florida galleries, museums, art fairs, and art centers, including MAC FINE ART.
Artists and art lovers, history has emphasized what makes fine art culture all that it is and needs to be. The world dotes on the idea that something can exist just because, without pretense or insecurity. It is this inherent freedom of expression that imbues contemporary fine art and gives it room to breathe and evolve as it does. The liberation that echoes through the history of fine art eternally is and ought to remain, “L’art pour l’art”, “art for artsake”.
Zolberg, V.L. (2002). “Fine Arts,” New School University, New York.