What Is The Future of Art?
The future of art: what an ambitious subject! How dangerous it is to claim to discern the future when the present already seems so complex. However, the future of art is already here, as seen in cultural, social and technological evolutions. If we look at how art has evolved in the past, let’s try to anticipate some major trends to come…
Art as a reflection of society
It has often been said that “art is the reflection of society”. This is what Yves Michaud, a famous French philosopher, was able to defend.
Artists are not isolated creators. Their work is the result of their relationship with the outside world. Often commenting on politics, power or wealth, artists may, or may not, dialogue with human concerns, which are themselves strongly conditioned by the culture in which we lives. Non-Western works, too, such as African or Oceanian masks and totems derive from this pattern.
In recent decades, the connections between “art” and “society” have become more obvious. For example, photography and video began to capture reality, documenting it, staging it, and sometimes denouncing it. Pop art, artists have seized on our symbols. And a new generation of artists uses their visibility to denounce, invective or educate the public.
The importance of technological developments
Alongside this complex relationship between the artwork and the society, the artists use the visual means that are made available to them. The painting, the support, or the sculpted material are dependent on the level of development of the society in which one lives. This greatly affects all artworks.
For example, when the paint tube was invented in the mid-19th century, artists started painting outdoors. Barely 20 years later, Impressionism was born. It is reasonable to say that, without this invention, this artistic movement would never have taken place.
Recently, this correlation between technological innovation and artistic creation is even more visible. New materials penetrate the works: plastic, metal alloys and polymers of all kinds. New creative techniques too: video, photo, 3D printer, creation from computer software, information technology, virtual reality, etc.
Discerning the future of art
The importance of the social environment and technology in artistic creation is therefore immense. It should not be overestimated, but even less should it be ignored. It is in these evolutions that we can anticipate the future of art.
Therefore we need to discern and priorite the main evolutions of our time, both from a societal and technological point of view.
How to identify the main evolutions of today? The major trends that govern our world are so numerous: globalization, community fracturing, environmental crisis, explosion of telecommunications, transhumanism, artificial intelligence, fight against racial, sexual or religious injustices…
Nevermind all the technological developments that are underway: virtual reality, 3D printing, digital or algorithmic creation, innovative materials…
It seems impossible to predict which of these developments will most determine the future of art. But we can still indulge in some projections.
Between globalization and community revaluation
The world has been experiencing an unprecedented acceleration of globalization for several decades. This translates into access to culture, economy, industry, information, on a global scale.
Thus, an artist like Cindy Sherman, who has portrayed herself in self-portraits for more than 40 years, can grasp stereotypes from all over the world. She represents herself as an American housewife of the 1950s, as a Japanese theater actress, and many more characters.
However, globalization has long been a diffusion of Western culture alone. Or, sometimes, an appropriation, by Western culture, of other cultures. The future could be more equitable, with a revaluation of non-Western symbols, by non-Western artists.
For example, Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj likes to praise the culture of the souk. It pays tribute to the pioneers of Malian photography, such as Seydou Keita or Malick Sidibé. He takes the clothing customs of his country, such as the veil, and makes it an offbeat fashion accessory. He seizes local consumer products and he plays with the excessive display of counterfeit luxury brands. In doing so, his work fits into a globalized logic, but through a non-Westernized prism.
Digital creation, an essential future of art
At the same time, the appearance of modern computers, barely twenty years ago, is undoubtedly the greatest artistic revolution in progress. It will most likely continue to determine part of the future of art. Just as the paint tube gave birth to Impressionism, the computer (and today smartphones and tablets) open up immense creative possibilities.
It is still hard to see how software like Photoshop (software allowing, among other things, the realization of photomontages and photo retouching) or Blender (software allowing, among other things, 3D modeling and animation) will revolutionize the arts.
Artists like Beeple, until recently unknown, are emblematic of the new creative possibilities linked to this software. And the possibility of marketing these digital works in the form of NFTs only increases the creative potential linked to these new tools.
The criticisms of the future of art
If certain future artistic developments are already perceptible, we can also discern some dissonances. For example, for a long time, art was a confidential environment confined to a restricted circle of amateurs. But today, many deplore a “great global circus where billionaires, major luxury brands, globalized merchants and star artists [who] take turns to fuel an endless spiral “ (Louis Nègre, Arty, 2021).
This criticism can be counterbalanced by the fact that art today is much more accessible than it once was. But it is no less justified.
Part of creating art today is synonymous with entertainment. Museums are multiplying and becoming tourist attractions. Shopping centers and other hospitality venues compete in artistic creativity to decorate their spaces. And luxury brands are increasingly partnering with artists to communicate the feeling that, by buying a handbag, you love art. This confusion between intellectual creation and mass consumption is perhaps not always for the best.
What about NFTs ?
Finally, the emergence of digital art, and particularly the rise of NFTs, is increasingly blurring the boundaries of the work of art. It is sometimes difficult to see if a CrytpoPunk is closer to a work of art, or to a very rare Pokémon card.
But if art is a reflection of our society, let’s remain lucid about what characterizes our time. Commodification and the leisure society have become its totems. And it would not be surprising if these artistic manifestations are ultimately those that will have the most resonance in the future.
Artistic possibilities linked to social and technological evolutions are virtually unlimited, and it is very difficult to estimate what the future of art will be. There are so many concepts about what will mark our time, but only a psychic would be able to see a linear trajectory. So let’s just try to keep our eyes, and especially our minds, open.
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