Remember when the eyes of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa followed you around the glistening floors of the Louvre? Or when you lost yourself in the 18th-century corn fields, and farms depicted by John Constable, disappearing into a past only read about in history books? We live through the eyes of others (the closest we will get to obtaining Adele’s skills in ‘Behind her eyes’, Netflix’s new series which is seriously worth a watch). However, soon, these may only be subconscious memories, as Art and eyesight appear to be diminishing.
It appears there is a new global health problem: everyone is going blind. Back in 2017, in a BBC health news report, it was estimated that eyesight problems were looking to triple by the year 2050. It is no wonder that staring at pixels on a screen all day is damaging the eyes that are supposed to wander landscapes and search for prey. The invention of phones, laptops, televisions, social media and now, Zoom, means humanity is losing its ability to see.
However, it seems it is not only our physical sight that is wilting away but the physical surroundings we are living in. It is becoming invisible as we enter an era not dissimilar to a black mirror episode. Lockdown has taught us a number of different things, one of which is a certain level of respect for where we have placed ourselves. With nearly a year without a garden, millions of people pent up in cities have felt a toll. But there is another type of visual world which is starting to wither away, one which so many may overlook, the world of Art.
Crypto-currency and Commodity. 2021 seems to have watched us skip all the way to the letter C as we embark on the great reset. But what about starting at the beginning? What about A?
Art is now the new cryptocurrency, as NFT’s turn original artworks into commodities. Some even consider destroying the original to increase the value of the NFT, as displayed by a recent controversy over an almost destroyed Basquiat painting. Yet this destroys the true worth of the art, the artist and the historical significance of the painting, all for the sake of increasing the price of a glorified memory stick.
What’s more, seeing physical art continues to face barriers, even with galleries re-opening. In-person exhibitions may be booked up for months and, even if you can find a space, the ticket price acts as the next barrier. What's the point in going to see that Munch? Or feeling inspired in front of one of Stubbs’ horses when google arts seemingly provides buck for no bill?
So many people have got this wrong. Art is visual and has been contributing to our society, politically and creatively, since it emerged in the caves of Indonesia, way back in the BC. These drawings are not only important to our modern understanding of the human race, but provide a balanced democracy. An outlet for the body of society to react against the deceitful words of the politicians through unchangeable brushstrokes, representing each country's heritage.
From Picasso to Delacroix, to Andy Warhol – art is part of the way societies engage in healthy discourse and bring about change. Warhol’s famous soup cans symbolise a fight against Silicon Valley, LA and the ruthless consumerism that swept over the world in the 20th century. Warhol removed the commodification of art and showed that art can be anything. The modern art world needs one of these Wharholian moments, where art is separated from being a crude crypto commodity and understood to hold cultural value within society.
Art may not have obtained the strongest governmental budget, but this doesn’t mean it should be left to fester in the pockets of those who already own half of the world. So, next time you flinch at a ticket price, ask yourself: would you want to live in a world with no art?