The New Golden Age of Art: A Message for Artists and Art Lovers
Our time has been called a Golden Age of Art many times before. And yes, I will brand this a Golden Age, too. It’s obvious! What we see today in art production – especially in digital art production – is a New Golden Age in art history. Looking at digital art, we witness an excessive increase in art production with so many tools on hand: incredible software, high-end printing and production techniques, online exhibition opportunities – all in the hands of many, right in the homes of today’s and tomorrow’s artists and art lovers.
And there is increasing demand for art. The online audience is craving pictures, craving the flow of images that reaches us through digital channels. It’s art in many facets that makes our day. The images we consume today are artworks that come to us for a very low price, almost for free.
And this fact reveals a disadvantage of Golden Art Ages for artists:
During the Dutch Golden Age, in the 17th century, art historians estimate that there were about five million paintings produced for the emerging and excessively growing art market. Paintings were not cheap, especially those of the masters, but with the growing market, paintings were eventually mass produced by legions of artists and could be acquired for small prices. Art became part of everyday life, hanging in tavernas an even in farmers’ best chambers (1).
The result of this boom was the »proletarianization« of artists. This was not a profession to make a living, it was work in a booming passionate industry. Though some had incredible careers, most artists had to secure their income by working in other fields. You find Dutch artists of this time working in taverns, as tulip traders or tax collectors. And even the light of some stars of the Dutch art world was diffused in this environment of overwhelming art production (2).
Since the 17th century, the art market has changed, of course: Only about 10 percent of the enormous production of the Dutch Golden Age is said to have survived the centuries, and the prices for those works are no longer low, that’s for sure. But this is not about skyrocketing art prices and possible art speculation opportunities. This glimpse on the Dutch Golden Age holds messages for contemporary artists and art lovers.
The message for artists in our time of excessive art production is that they should not get frustrated to work » part-time« or having to commercialize their talents. Dreams of breakthroughs and masterly success stories are not helpful. It is the passion for art and the enthusiasm of creativity that counts. Artists should definitely make use of this New Golden Art Age with its incredible tools and global opportunities.
For art lovers the message is to buy art. It´s a call to buy not only for passionate collectors, but for everybody, the common man and woman. So, art lovers, check out your walls, your screens and whatever space you have for art. See what is there and imagine what could be there. You don´t need to be an expert to own a piece of art. You don´t need to be rich, because there is art out there for very low prices. See what you like and love and get it into your space! Because you should own at least one piece in this New Golden Age of Art.
For those who might be new to buying art, here’s some basic advice:
You should like or love a piece, for whatever reason. Art can simply be a source of delight for you, an aesthetic experience, but also a statement, a sign of the time, the place, the state of mind you live in or an intellectual challenge. Define what art means to you.
Train your eye or ear or whatever sense you like for artworks. Find out which kind of art attracts you, what you can learn about this field. Compare and focus.
Speculation should not be on your mind – even though it can be thrilling to discover an artist and experience his or her artistic profile grow. Money is not the point.
Expand your horizon and give serendipity a chance. Check out fields of art, collections or museums that seem uninteresting to you at first sight. Challenge yourself.
Practice out-of-the-box thinking when looking at art. It is nice to own a piece that everyone admires, but you shouldn’t shy away from pieces you like because influencers, gallerists or auction houses raise their eyebrows at them. In the past I was told multiple times that computer art is not »real art,« that certain production or printing techniques are not usable for »real art,« that people like mathematicians and engineers cannot create »real art,« and so on. Forget this »real art« talk and discover.
Thoughts after reading:
(1) Stefan Grohé: Das Goldene Zeitalter der niederländischen Malerei. In: Kunsthistorische Arbeitsblätter 7/2002, S. 47-60.
(2) Wikipedia (German) has a pretty good article on
Goldenes Zeitalter (Niederlande),
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