Art is About Free Expression

Art for me has always been about free expression. There shouldn’t be any social or political prerequisites in order to be an artist.

Recently I read an article in Reason Magazine that highlighted the lives of Libertarian art dealers/collectors living in New York City. They were somewhat of an outcast couple because of their economically conservative views.

The art world essentially has two main categories; contemporary (modern) and classical. It’s often the assumption that modern art is for “liberals/leftists” and classical art is more for “conservatives”.

When these two factions begin to intermingle, there’s sometimes friction.

There’s a long history of classical artists headbutting with modern artists and vice versa.

Hitler hated modern art, but he loved classical and religious art. So much did he despise modern art, he coined a new term for it: Degenerate Art.

Adolph Ziegler and the Nazi Party organized  Die Ausstellung “Entartete Kunst”… ‘The Degenerate Art Exhibition’ in Munich in 1937.  The exhibit housed over 650 works of modern art that were confiscated from German museums. 

The purpose of the exhibition was to showcase the art with written explanations of why the art was degenerate. They wanted to show how the art contributed to what they thought of as ‘ills of society’.

The smear campaign against modern artists had a long-lasting affect. ‘Degenerate Artist’, is now sometimes used as an endearing term that modern artists will give themselves. It’s a sort of punk rock middle finger to totalitarianism.

As many of us know, however, ‘the left’ nor ‘the right’ is free from authoritarianism.

There was an effort in the late 1920’s to oust surrealist artists and exclude anyone not willing to commit to collective action. There were 3 manifestos of surrealism written, known as the manifeste du surréalisme, which essentially laid out the ‘rules for surrealism’.

Excluded members fired back with a counter-attack sharply criticizing Andre’ Breton (the author of the surrealist manifestos) in the pamphlet Un Cadavre.

To summarize: you basically had surrealist artists who thought the surrealist avant-garde movement should be used as a tool for communist revolution. Other artists and writers thought the movement should be apolitical, and focus only on releasing the creative potential of the unconscious mind.

Throughout history we see there have been many attempts to exclude, censor or defame artists who didn’t align with the political majority of the given movement.

Art should be about free expression. It shouldn’t matter what style the artist utilizes or if they are a communist, a capitalist, a liberal, a conservative, a christian, an atheist and so on and so forth–it’s still art.

Art is the physical creation of what the mind sees and feels. It’s something, to me, that transcends political affiliation. You can’t put rules on free expression.

Photo Credit: Luis Quiles

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