By Erin Wright
Chair, UAB Department of Art and Art History
In the future, art will become even more public. In this increasingly connected world, the opportunities for artists to have the public experience their work will grow exponentially. Work that exists solely in the digital realm—and other work that exists physically but is documented digitally—is already accessible to anyone with a cell phone.
Art for the Masses
In much the same way that musicians can now bypass the record industry and make their songs available to the public directly through the Internet, visual artists will not necessarily be beholden to galleries to display and sell their creative work. Of course, there will be growing pains—similar to the ones the music industry suffered through when its artists’ catalogs became digital and easily available to (but also reproducible by) the public. The art world will have to come to terms with how to manage and control its content so that artists will be appropriately compensated for their creative production.
Art by the Masses
Art also will become even more public in the sense that it will be more accessible to anyone with the impulse to create. Today the computer is as prevalent in the classroom as the calculator was a generation ago. Add to that digital cameras, video, and software and this generation of children is growing up with a skill set for using powerful tools to create visual art.
That is not to say that any kid with Photoshop skills can be the next Ansel Adams—quite the contrary. But he already has knowledge of the tools. An education in art will help him to develop aesthetics, creativity, and content.
New forms of art will certainly be created. Art is not just the end product of the creative process, but the execution of that process. As new technologies develop, artists will certainly find ways to use them in original and creative ways and, in so doing, push the boundaries of what is considered art.
Farewell to the Physical?
Will the older forms of art be neglected? I seriously doubt it. Each art form has its own sensibility, its own reward for the experience in its creation. The satisfaction I get from creating art on the computer is different than if I create something physical with my own hands. Not that one is more rewarding than the other, just different.
Also, art made digitally is infinitely reproducible. While that can be considered one of its advantages, the opposite can be said to be true for more traditional forms. A painting may be actually of more worth both in terms of the experience in creation and the ultimate value because of its one-of–a-kind nature. Even in traditional sculpture, photography, and printmaking, where multiples are possible, there is usually a limit to the edition: The fewer in the edition, the more valuable each print or casting. The proliferation of digital art in the future may actually make the traditional processes even more valued.
One of the things I love about art is that it cannot be easily defined, let alone predicted. What I do see, is that art will become more and more an integral part of everyone’s daily life. So for art, and for us, the future is bright.