View Poll Results: Is there a difference between High and Low Art?

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  • Yes, but High Art is dead or dying.

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  • Yes, and High Art is still alive.

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Thread: High Art vs. Low Art

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    Default High Art vs. Low Art

    The question is twofold:

    a). Do you believe in the distinction between High and Low Art?
    b). If so, do you think that High Art is currently being produced?

    High Art

    Much of High Culture consists of the appreciation of what is sometimes called High Art. This term is rather broader than Arnold's definition and besides Literature includes Music, Visual arts, especially Painting, and traditional forms of the Performing arts, now including some Cinema. The Decorative arts would not generally be considered High art.

    The cultural products most regarded as forming part of High culture are most likely to have been produced during periods of High civilization, for which a large, sophisticated and wealthy urban-based society provides a coherent & conscious aesthetic framework, and a large-scale milieu of training, and, for the visual arts, sourcing materials and financing work. All this is so that the artist is able, as near as possible, to realize his creative potential with as few as possible practical and technical constraints. Although the Western concept of High Culture naturally concentrates on the Graeco-Roman tradition, and its resumption from the Renaissance onwards, it would normally be recognised that such conditions existed in other places at other times. A tentative list of High Cultures, or cultures producing High art, might therefore be:

    • Ancient Egypt

    • Ancient Greece

    • Ancient Rome

    • China

    • Ancient India

    • Byzantium

    • Persia

    • Several cultures of the Middle East at various periods

    • Europe from the 14th century
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    Low Culture

    Low culture is a derogatory term for some forms of popular culture. The term is often encountered in discourses on the nature of culture. Its opposite is high culture. It has been said by culture theorists that both high culture and low culture are subcultures.

    Kitsch, slapstick, camp, bathroom humor, escapist fiction, popular music and exploitation films are examples of low culture. It has often been stated that in postmodern times, the boundary between high culture and low culture has blurred. See the 1990s artwork of Jeff Koons for examples of appropriation of low art tropes. Rhys Chatham's musical piece Guitar Trio 1977 is also an example of incorporating (low culture) 'primitive' punk rock esthetics with (high art) contemporary classical music.



    Romanticism was one of the first movements to reappraise "low culture", when previously maligned medieval romances started to influence literature.

    In simple terms, low culture is another term for popular culture. This means everything in society that has mass appeal. In todays society, this would involve things like 'take-away' meals, gossip magazines, books that are current best sellers and sports such as football and basketball.
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    I think that there is certainly a difference. As Spengler describes in The Decline of the West with High Art, we witness a symbolic representation of the life cycle of the culture producing the art, whereas with Low Art (or Folk Art or Pop Art) you have a more or less constant peasant spirit that may change stylistically, but at its core remains the same.

    I hate to say it, but I'm not sure if I can honestly say that there is much High Art being produced nowadays at all. I can think of many many instances of where Pop Art has been co-opted by extraordinary individuals to reach beyond the norms of the medium, but I think that these are all too fragmented and disconnected from each other to really "count" as another movement in the West's cycle of High Art. So many of the small movements that I do see value in now can only be described, as a Pennsylvanian once said on Skadi, as the death throes of the West.

    What do you think?

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    Junior Member Euroblood's Avatar
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    I agree Psychonaut, High art is dying.

    Much of the modern day art is low art, and I think so much of this "art" is nothing more than someone trying to make a statement (All art makes a statement but not just for the sake of making the statement). For example someone who takes a picture of an American flag, then draws a huge 'x' on it and says it is art that signifies a dislike for George W. Bush or something riddiculus like that.

    That's just my opinion though...
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    I don't think it is yet time to mourn the death of high art. Yes, modern art is often bleak but I have occasionally found transcendent pieces in galleries. If only I had the means to collect them.

    I don't know how sharp a distinction to make with low art, but I believe it is of value - different but in a qualitative rather than quantitative sense. Folk art including punk rock sustains the network of relationships that in turn sustains the folk.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Loddfafner View Post
    Folk art including punk rock sustains the network of relationships that in turn sustains the folk.
    This is definitely true, which is why I'll always support authentic European folk music. However, folk music seems to be intrinsically tied to the peasantry and yeomanry, whereas high art was tied to the aristocracy. Both groups are representative of the Folk in different ways, but nowadays we have no true aristocracy, only peasants who have made large sums of money. Our current wealthy have no high culture, only a monetarily inflated version of pop culture.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Psychonaut View Post
    only peasants who have made large sums of money. Our current wealthy have no high culture, only a monetarily inflated version of pop culture.
    I don't know how different that is from the past though. Before mass reproduction was possible, these art forms belonged to the 'aristocracy' only because they were the only ones able to pay someone to sit around all day creating this artwork.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SwordoftheVistula View Post
    I don't know how different that is from the past though. Before mass reproduction was possible, these art forms belonged to the 'aristocracy' only because they were the only ones able to pay someone to sit around all day creating this artwork.
    I think the difference nowadays is that there isn't a cultural difference between the rich and the masses. There is not a culture of aristocrats who have been educated so that they can appreciate fine art. There are not traditions of patronage that sponsor art that caters to sophisticated tastes. Most of the art that is produced now designed as a product for the consumption of the unwashed masses or for the enjoyment of other artists. The wealthy of today enjoy much the same type of art as your average joe.

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    Junior Member Euroblood's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SwordoftheVistula View Post
    Before mass reproduction was possible, these art forms belonged to the 'aristocracy' only because they were the only ones able to pay someone to sit around all day creating this artwork.

    Quote Originally Posted by Psychonaut View Post
    I think the difference nowadays is that there isn't a cultural difference between the rich and the masses. There is not a culture of aristocrats who have been educated so that they can appreciate fine art. There are not traditions of patronage that sponsor art that caters to sophisticated tastes. Most of the art that is produced now designed as a product for the consumption of the unwashed masses or for the enjoyment of other artists. The wealthy of today enjoy much the same type of art as your average joe.
    There was at some point a time in which the aristocracy (aka the High Class) and money were synonymous with each other. We could generally assume that if one had money, they were at least somewhat educated enough to appreciate fine art.

    But after some time (it's debatable exactly when, I'd probably say around the time of the 1st world war.) money was no longer synonymous with culture and High class. Today we have a situation where those who have money are not necessarily cultured enough to appreciate fine art. And of course we have the poor(er) class, who find it hard to put food on the table. I think it is safe to say, if one is having a hard time paying bills and providing for their family, they aren't going to be able to appreciate fine art.

    And so... today we don't see a lot of "fine art" culture.
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    There is a profound difference.

    As counterintuitive and paradoxical as it may well sound, the difference is so profound that we can now actually ask if there is a difference. What I mean is that the conflagration of anti-aristocratic sentiments, coupled with a primacy of art immitating/contraindicating life which, EuroBlood is absolutely correct, corresponds directly with WWI and historically witnessed in the Dadaism movement: anti-art; as well as the continual reduction that appears to have been the aim of abstract art since Supremetism (if not prior). I think it demonstrable - that is to say provable - that where once a culture strived for the division between man and man (which as a natural result, values war), stood a reflection and representation of such an ideal that manifested a clear and distinct aesthetic. The 'logical' outcome of anti-art is, of course, the inversion of what art is.

    Of course, Abstract art was on this destructive course, as well (the mantra of Dadaists being 'creation is destruction' whilst, in practise, creating nothing other than a psychological milieu that inverted the aesthetic object of apprehension), with Malevich (for one) and black and white squares and such.

    Dadaism's (in particular) very aim was to destroy what art had been: a further refinement of the slave revolt in morals, come 'alive' in some or another medium (if only the medium of the mind).



    To answer to the latter part of the question: yes, High Art is still being produced. The problem is that, as has already been implied, there are very few people around that can recognise the aesthetic difference between a Rodin - and a urinal. And those that do, are stuck with having to deal with gallery directors that call their productions, or the High works that they would like to see, "irrelevant" or "antiquated".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Psychonaut View Post
    I think the difference nowadays is that there isn't a cultural difference between the rich and the masses. There is not a culture of aristocrats who have been educated so that they can appreciate fine art. There are not traditions of patronage that sponsor art that caters to sophisticated tastes. Most of the art that is produced now designed as a product for the consumption of the unwashed masses or for the enjoyment of other artists. The wealthy of today enjoy much the same type of art as your average joe.
    Quote Originally Posted by Euroblood View Post
    There was at some point a time in which the aristocracy (aka the High Class) and money were synonymous with each other. We could generally assume that if one had money, they were at least somewhat educated enough to appreciate fine art.

    And so... today we don't see a lot of "fine art" culture.

    ...money was no longer synonymous with culture and High class. Today we have a situation where those who have money are not necessarily cultured enough to appreciate fine art.
    There is still a distinction, wealthy/educated people are really the only ones who go to broadway plays and art galleries and listen to jazz music for example, whereas the lower classes tend toward such things as metal music, comic books, and star wars movies.

    It is true that it is not as much of a distinction anymore, this is due to class mobility, it is common for a lower/middle class person to grow up listening to metal or punk rock and reading comic books or sci-fi and then through education end up in a high paying job.

    Quote Originally Posted by Euroblood View Post
    But after some time (it's debatable exactly when, I'd probably say around the time of the 1st world war.)
    Roughly centered around WWI-I'd say it started in the mid-late 1800s with 'dime novels', then moved forward with the invention of photography, the phonograph, motion picture, radio, and television.

    Quote Originally Posted by SuuT View Post
    historically witnessed in the Dadaism movement...Of course, Abstract art was on this destructive course...
    Abstract art in generally, including Dadaism, was a result of the development of photography. Once photography was developed, anyone with a camera could create a more realistic landscape or portrait than the most skilled master painter. Thus, there was little point for a painter to learn to paint realistic portraits or landscapes. Still, you needed something to seperate the aristocratic/upper class from the lower classes who could now plaster their walls with Ansel Adams prints, and thus 'abstract art' developed.


    Quote Originally Posted by SuuT View Post
    there are very few people around that can recognise the aesthetic difference between a Rodin - and a urinal.
    Anyone can now own a mass produced object with the quality of a Rodin. Thus, such things can no longer be 'aristocratic'.

    High Art, 1467 (from a cathedral triptych in Danzig):


    Low Art, 2008 (from the Magic: The Gathering card game):

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    Quote Originally Posted by SwordoftheVistula View Post
    Roughly centered around WWI-I'd say it started in the mid-late 1800s with 'dime novels', then moved forward with the invention of photography, the phonograph, motion picture, radio, and television.
    These things made general information and, ergo, thought provocation more wide-spread. However, how the general information was utilised and what thoughts were provoked by the increase of available intellectual datum ought not be eliminated from the assay. The question being, "did art, and aesthetics more generally, experience an ascension or declination with the advance of technology?" I think the answer is clear; indeed, it follows necessarily: the degradation of aesthetic Aristos runs in perfect chronological concomitance with the march of increased information availability. So, I agree in the sense that these (photography, the phonograph, motion picture, radio, and television) all were vehicles for increased availability of thought provocation as a result of novel informational stimuli. Where I think we will part is in this...

    Abstract art in generally, including Dadaism, was a result of the development of photography. Once photography was developed, anyone with a camera could create a more realistic landscape or portrait than the most skilled master painter. Thus, there was little point for a painter to learn to paint realistic portraits or landscapes. Still, you needed something to seperate the aristocratic/upper class from the lower classes who could now plaster their walls with Ansel Adams prints, and thus 'abstract art' developed.
    ...which is, with respect, historically and etiologically inaccurate.


    Anyone can now own a mass produced object with the quality of a Rodin. Thus, such things can no longer be 'aristocratic'.
    A poster of a Rodin has the aesthetic qualities of an actual (right before your eyes, within touching distance) Rodin...? Have you been to the Lovre, might I ask? Or the Museum of art in New York or Chicago?

    High Art, 1467 (from a cathedral triptych in Danzig):


    Low Art, 2008 (from the Magic: The Gathering card game):

    I'm not sure what you are illustrating here, but if it is what any aesthete would recognise as inherently different, I think you have succeeded.
    Often, in our attempts to show people that they do not know what they believe they do, it is exposed that they lack any identity whatsoever - beyond the belief that they know anything at all.

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