“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.” (Martha Graham)
This month a major art heist took place in Italy. Art valued at seventeen million dollars was stolen from the Castelvecchio museum in northern Italy. Among the fifteen works stolen were paintings by Rubens and Tintoretto. In what seems like a Hollywood caper three masked robbers skillfully overpowered the guards and made off with the paintings. Nobody was injured and it was all very neatly done.
In reality these art thefts are not committed by handsome leading actors. They are the work of thugs working for organised crime. What is tragic is that these thefts deprive people like you and I of profound and great art. This strikes at the fabric of civilization. A fact easily overlooked in this digital age.
Consider that thousands of years ago a few prehistoric humans ventured into deep caves. Equipped with rude materials and fire for lighting these artists created beautiful art. Of course they did not call themselves artists like we understand the term today. Back then what they did was considered magical. The cave paintings at Lascaux in France are amazingly skilled works. Why did they go to this trouble when life was hard and precarious?
Our fascination with art to this day is a puzzle. Even though most of us have no chance of owning art worth millions we still appreciate art. Some of us will purchase art for our homes and offices. Despite these works having no utility we value them dearly. Is it because we recognise, deep down, that art is part of what makes us human. The other being our ability to love. According to Monet art is directly linked to our ability to love.
Now I know that many cynics today scoff at art. Yet art is all around us in design, architecture, music and imagery. I will never forget observing a man standing at the door of a gallery and laughingly saying that "you artists must really be suffering today". He then walked away presumably pleased with his verbal assault. Art must be powerful indeed to provoke such scorn from this disconnected fellow.
So what is the value of art? Is it the price even though some art is priceless? Is it the rarity of certain work? Is it the skill of an auctioneer pushing up prices? Perhaps the provenance of ownership by famous people? All of these influence objective and subjective values. But it goes further than this.
The quote above holds the clue. Art has a vital energy that resonates with our soul. I will not accept that our fascination with art has any other link. The prehistoric artists and Leonardo da Vinci had this in common We all have this vital energy to express ourselves in creative and abstract ways.
We also need art in our schools. We need to stop the complete focus on left-brain education. Adults too must recognise art as a healing activity.
It is critical that each person sees this. Do something creative. You need it. I am convinced that complete happiness requires artistic expression and appreciation. What value can you put on this?
What do you think? Does art still have any value in modern society?
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