Lately I’ve been thinking about the idea of accessibility. One of the aspects of the contemporary fine art world that has always bothered me is how incredibly exclusive it is.   In my experience, so much of the fine art world behaves in an elite, condescending manner towards the layman. Take contemporary art galleries, for example:  the last time I was in New York City walking around art galleries in Chelsea, one thing I noticed was how cold and unfriendly the people working in the galleries were.  I walked into one gallery where the two people at the desk wouldn’t even make eye contact or greet me as I walked into the gallery. In the past, when I did make an attempt to talk to someone in the gallery, I felt like I was intruding on their space, and how dare I try to speak to them. Can you imagine any other business or store treating a visitor in such a manner? All of these qualities sends a harsh message to the average person that the contemporary fine art world is off limits to them, it’s a closed world that they cannot enter.

Drawings that Work: 21st BCA Drawing Show

Many other fields, like design and illustration, across the board aggressively make themselves accessible to the general public.  There are millions of professional blogs, TV shows, online tutorials, social media sites for these fields. This accessibility is completely accepted and encouraged by other professionals in these fields.  This is not the case in the contemporary fine arts world.  The vast majority of professional fine artists today present their work with a mystique.  They don’t generally show any glimpse of their creative process, all of the mistakes and blunders are completely hidden from the public. One of my favorite things about Julia Child was that she was not afraid to make a mistake on camera.  Instead of being embarrassed by her mistake, she would transform it into a teachable moment and explain how to fix it and move on. For many people, her mistakes taught people just as much, if not more than when they watched her do something perfectly.

I’ve written in the past about how at times I get self-conscious about the fact that I blog extensively about my fine arts work.  I worry that many of my academic colleagues would look down on the kind of writing and blogging that I do.  My approach to my writing is conversational and not written for an academic audience.  For this reason, I’m an anomaly in the academic fine arts world.


11 thoughts on “Accessibility

  1. I, for one, truly appreciate your stance concerning the accessibility of fine arts. Art should be a celebration of the human spirit where all are welcome, not some stand-offish, private gathering for insiders.

  2. I feel that your article really speaks to a lot of us artists out here like myself, who are treated like outsiders looking in for various reasons whether they be political, racial, financial, etc. There is always an excuse to exclude us from being in that “level” of art and it has absolutely nothing to do with the art we produce.

    Thank you for standing up and even acknowledging this problem even in your position as an educator. I feel you are leading progress on a path to break down these pretentious barriers that do nothing but promote segregation on so many levels. I should only hope that your colleagues would have the same courage to speak up and address it as you do.

  3. Reblogged this on SomniVision Art and commented:
    Here, Clara Lieu touches on the topic of making fine art available to the masses and the elitist attitude commonly associated with the “art world”. Just one of the major roadblocks that still hinder progress in this modern age where information (supposedly) flows freely.

    I encourage you to read this as I’m sure you may have experienced what she has if you’ve ever visited an art gallery.

    (comments are disabled here, please comment on her post)

  4. Amen! I want to give my humble endeavors to everyone, not just the gallery going few. I more or less favor sidewalks and coffee shops for this reason – nonexclusive places where a broader range of traffic is likely to pass by.

  5. I really appreciate the fact that you do not only address the academical field, but everyone else outside of it as well. I believe that art should be accessible to everyone who has an interest in it, and, being an art history student, it sometimes hits me how little I used to know and how little everybody knows about art. It should play such a bigger role in our lives, it should be treated as something way more essential for our culture, and still, it’s locked up and accessible only for the ones who already have the knowledge, and even the money. I love your blog, by the way.

  6. It seems lame that being welcoming and accessible is what could set you apart from the rest of the community, but it sounds like a great idea!

    In the video editing communities there are tons of tutorials on software, and making them really does increase your visibility (I’ve only posted two and my portfolio site went from basically no hits to over 200 per day!) That said, once you get into forums, a lot of old pros tend to be super passive-aggressive and/or elitist assholes.

  7. I live in the west (Arizona), and I’m not a professional artist represented in a gallery; but I get the impression that Clara is describing the art world on the east coast — and maybe other large metro areas as well. While the perception of exclusivity has been created by those operating in that world, there are many avenues to show and sell art. The Internet has enabled the democratization of art, and any artist can create a persona, establish a following and sell work online, regardless of where they live. It’s not the same as being in a major gallery, but it’s an avenue for many artists who wouldn’t otherwise find an audience for their art. It also opens up the playing field for people who want to buy original art, but won’t visit a gallery, often for the “snobbiness factor” that Clara described.

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