What is an art gallery?

What's in an art gallery?

What does they look like?


At one tlme, any picture painted could be recognised at once for what it was - a battle scene, landscape, famous person or event. But in the late nineteenth century, Paris became the centre of a new art which defied all rules. Instead of painting what they knew to exist, Parisian artists began painting their impressions of what they saw - hence the name Impressionists. These Impressionists had realised that the human brain can be trusted to sort things out without extra help from the artist.. As photography has taken over the function of art to 'freeze' scenes from life, so artists have come more and more to be interested in ideas for their own sake. In a modern art gallery, you would see many kinds of ideas. There would be the completely abstract pictures of colour and shape without a subject, by artists like Kandinsky; experiments in lines by Mondrian; pictures which are pure patterns in the old oriental style, by Matisse; and perhaps a sculpture by Henry Moore, who worked at stone until an idea emerged, rather than beginning work with a clear idea in his head. It is possible you might also see some 'action paintings'. In these, the artist expresses his emotion on canvas, perhaps by dribbling the paint straight from the tin. Later he may jump on it or ride a bicycle over it. These artists are often ridiculed - but so were artists like Pissarro at first. Whatever the century, artists are always seeking new ways of expressing their ideas. Many people are confused and irritated by their inability to grasp the fundamentals of this expression, often complicating what is a very simple philosophy .In the 1920's Duchamp challenged the relationship between art and the gallery by exhibiting a gent's urinal. Duchamp wanted people to realise that art existed everywhere and not just in galleries as a bourgeois and elitist activity. Many contemporary artists, in the main modest and affable people, have simplified the process of making art to make it less elitist and more accesable to people who would have previously felt alienated by it's pretentions. Oddly this has had the opposite effect as the people who were previously smugly content to regard themselves as cultured, have now joined the ranks of the indignant, in what the critic Hilton Kramer describes as the 'revenge of the philistines' . Many feel threatened by what they see as the erosion of 'traditional values' in their inability to seperate art from craft or the 'concept' from the execution of an idea. Don't be prejudiced by their opinions, instead visit the galleries and find out for yourself.

'Anti-elitist elitism' and 'Outsiders on the inside' are covered in the Not So Simple series.