Is art really art if it remains unseen?
Let me just say that this isn’t some silly, dog-chase-tail, rhetorical question designed to eat up your time. I mean this quite literally.
I’m asking you this because I have a lot of art in storage. You know what I mean … there’s simply not enough display space for everything in my home and even if there were, not too many people would actually SEE it. This is a house, not an art gallery, although it may resemble one.
It’s an art collecting conundrum … you love art, you love to collect, but don’t even masterpieces become “stuff” – albeit important and expensive stuff - when there’s barely enough remaining space to maneuver around them, let alone display them?
They say art museums only display about 20% of their entire collections at any given time. When you think about it, even the largest, most prestigious institutions run out of space. I mean, who knew that even two million square feet can only hold so much?
But this isn’t an essay about packrats, it’s about what happens when art space simply runs out. It’s the art that suffers. That’s what happens.
There are two major ways that you can injure art. You can vandalize it OR you can lock it away in storage, away from prying eyes for years on end. Of course, I’m not talking about responsibly storing art in dark, climate-controlled spaces. That’s a good thing.
What I’m talking about is keeping art locked away. “Locked” is the operative word here because while keeping art locked away is NOT the same thing as kidnapping a child, I do think there’s something undesirable about the practice.
Art is made to be seen and experienced. Like the proverbial falling tree in the forest, if art is locked away for years where nobody sees it, does it make an impact?
I could take that yet another step and ask … Is it really art?
Wouldn’t you rather SEE bad art than NO art at all? Like a “B” movie, sometimes bad art can be so bad that it’s good. The point is … you SAW it. You experienced it. You were in communion with it.
I’m thinking right now about Super Bowl 2017. It looked like Atlanta had it all sewn up against New England, but then, Tom Brady painted a near miraculous comeback in the fourth quarter.
Keep in mind that many fans had already left the stands at this point. They thought Atlanta had it, but they totally missed the turnaround which was the best part of the entire game.
Can the fans who bailed early actually say they SAW Super Bowl 2017? I think not. The fourth quarter alone was worth the price of admission. Clearly, New England didn’t make their best “showing” until the end.
The same holds true for art. If you don’t “show” it, you can’t see it and if you can’t see it, is the art really fulfilling its true purpose?
You know, sometimes I get inspired, sit down in front of this keyboard, start writing and I have no idea how I got here. If you had told me a couple of hours ago that I’d be writing a piece about unseen art, I’d say that’s not going to happen because I’ve got yard work to do.
But here it is. Who knew?
So what’s the takeaway here? I don’t know. I guess we need to always think about ways to keep art on display? Locked away art isn’t doing anyone any good.
Can’t you just hear the art screaming???
“Dude, what are you doing? LET ME OUT!”
I wish I could lock away my yard work.