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The Power of Art in Society

Art can be considered as one of the forms of public consciousness. At the heart of art, lays a creative reflection of reality. Art cognizes and evaluates the world, forms a spiritual shape of people, their feelings and thoughts, their outlook, and awakens their creative abilities. In its essence art is national. The informative role of art makes it close to science, where the artist, as well as the scientist, aspires to make sense of life phenomena, to see in the casual and transient the most typical and characteristic, as well as the pattern in the development of reality.

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The deep knowledge of reality, in the long run, is connected with the aspiration to transform it and improve it. The person seizes forces of nature, learns laws of development of society to change the world in compliance with the requirements and the purposes put by the community and the society. Unlike science, art expresses truth, not in abstract notions, but concrete images full of life. The typical in life is embodied in works of art, in unique individually-characteristic forms. In that regard, it can be said that art as an influencing factor plays a major role in society and the life of people.

Accordingly, the art and heritage industry itself had taken different shapes and directions influenced by the consumer nature of the society. In that sense, this paper analyzes art as a power in society, outlining its role and functions, and analyzing the recent issues in art industries.

The Essence of Art

The aesthetic relationship with reality, contained in all the forms of human activities, could not be ignored as a subject of special reproduction. Such special kind of human activities, in which the aesthetic embodied in the art becomes the content, the method, and the goal is art. In that regard, as an evaluation of the aesthetic effect, art is a process of value finding, rather than a product. (Dague-Barr, 2009)

Tracing the development of theories regarding what represents a work of art, linking art to aesthetics, it can be said that being a work of art is not a physical characteristic, but rather a perception, a perception that previously was considered to be of people belonging to the art world. (Carey, 2006)

In that regard, it can be said that art as a phenomenon is a notion intrinsic to modern society. Art, being born in primeval society, acquired its main characteristics in antiquity, and at the same time, it was not cognized as a special kind of activity. For a certain period, certain activities were considered as arts such as the skills to build houses, navigation skills, good governance, poetry, philosophy, rhetoric, etc. The process of isolating the aesthetic activity, i.e. art in its current perception, began in particular handicrafts, and after that, it was transferred into the sphere of spiritual activity.

Works of art are after-images or replicas of empirical life, since they proffer to the latter what in the outside world is being denied them. In the process, they slough off a repressive, external empirical mode of experiencing the world. Whereas the line separating art from real life should not be fudged, least of all by glorifying the artist, it must be kept in mind that works of art are alive, have a life sui generis. (Adorno et al., 2004)

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Art in the Society

Art of each epoch is inseparably linked with national culture and historical conditions, with class struggle, and with the level of the spiritual life of the society. Living in a class society, the artist, naturally, acts as the representative of a certain social class. The reflection of the real world, the selection of those or other phenomena of the reality for art reproduction is defined by its social views and is made according to the point of view of certain class ideals and aspirations. In class society, the influence of reactionary ideas leaves traces of limitedness on the creativity of artists.

The artists’ expressions of original interests of classes were seen as expanding artists’ creative outlook and the ability for an aesthetic embodiment in images of art of the advanced aspirations of society as a whole. The art history represents a complex, inconsistent picture of the development of various schools, movements, styles, and currents which are in interaction and struggle.

In their creativity, artists proceed not only from direct impressions, supervision, and observation, but also from the experience which has been accumulated by art through all the history of mankind, from traditions of national movements, leaning on them, and opposing them with the new understanding of the real phenomena.

The progress of art is more strongly and more brightly shown in humanistic and realistic tendencies, along with the gains of each epoch. Realism is an artistic method that is the most corresponding to the informative nature of art. However, the truthful reflection of reality cannot be minimized to copying reality. Realism characterizes aspiration to embody into brightly individual images the typical and the natural in life. The absence of harmonious unity of generalization and the artistic image individualization results in either the sketchiness, which deprives the work of art of persuasiveness, or the depiction of the casual, and small aspects of the reality.

Realism is the art that can be considered as a historical notion. It obtains various contents and forms depending on certain historical conditions of the given epoch, passing several qualitatively unique steps of its development. These steps are defined by changes of the represented subject – new social relations, a new way of life, as well as an embodiment of a new level of social consciousness with the distinction of life representation’s nature.

At early steps of social development, a truthful reflection of an art life is formed spontaneously and mostly dressed in fantastic mythological forms (art of the ancient world and the Middle Ages). Conscious tendency to the cognition of the world, its laws, and realism’s composition as the certain method in art, can be related to the Renaissance epoch when art, as well as science, being released from the captivity of the church’s scholasticism, seizes a truthful display of people’s image, their world outlook, and social relations.

In that regard, it can be considered that the art’s purpose is to reveal in the phenomena of the surrounding life their original essence, visually showing in impressive imagery the most important for the person and a society. One of the main artistic touches can be considered the generalization of an image, it’s standardizing. It allows showing brightly the beautiful in life and uncovers the ugly and the evil. Criticizing the ugly aspects of life, art urges to hate them passionately and to struggle against them. Embodying an ideal of beauty, art inspires deeds for the struggle for the sake of the bright, humane, and good. A major moment of an aesthetic evaluation of the reality is the negative and hostile relation of the artist to all reactionary as ugly, and the evaluation of all progressive as fine.

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Art and Cultural Heritage

Art and culture always went to the forefront of society. They laid new paths in social consciousness, created new values, and opened new horizons. When the culture carries out its innovative and educational mission, it becomes a heritage, an experience, and historical memory of the people, and another brick in the building of national identity. In that regard, as art and culture have leading roles in society, they also became a major concern, in terms of their preservation, which can be traced back to France in 1794, where an idea of destroying all Latin inscriptions on monuments came out.

Henry Gregoire, a member of the revolutionary government responded by urging,

a focus on the creator of the art rather than on the patron, to bring the individual to the forefront and to present works of art as examples of the free spirit-genius and talent realized – triumphant over political repression, error and superstition… Because the Pyramids of Egypt had been built by tyranny and for tyranny, ought these monuments of antiquity to be demolished? (Hoffman, 2006)

Contemporary problems in Arts

At earlier times it can be said that art was financed by amateurs. Both rich patrons of art, and the respectable public paid for what was pleasant to them. As a rule, people of creative professions were not rich, if they were not born rich. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the situation began to change, and to a considerable degree, this was related to the accumulation of capital as a result of the industrial revolution, the spreading of education, the development of science, etc.

One after another, museums, theatres and concert halls were opened, which were created and supported by the government or patrons of art, whose numbers have grown, along with the occurrence of an army of professional critics. In the 20th century there were already much more writers, artists, and actors, who could be quite good, and at times very provide themselves. Society began to consider them with more respect, and it could be said that parents were no longer concerned about the fate of the children who decided to be artists.

However, the capitalist model, which purpose was focused on profit and its augmentation, began to change the relation to art gradually. Amateur patrons of art began to be superseded by businessmen and money was invested in what could bring profit. The decisive factor was not the talent of the artist, not the artistic taste of the patron or the public, but the promotion of what was invested in, to receive fast profits. Art and culture became the victims of the process of industrialization which by the end of the 20th century has grasped such spheres which cannot and should not serve profit earning.

Results could be predicted, where the prices increased, the quality was lowered, and the access was limited. Thus, it was the turn of the art to be affected. Today money is invested in arts as in real estate or stock. Especially subjected to market pressure was the fine arts sector, as it is easier to involve market mechanisms when selling. Art became consumer goods and thus should comply with the general mechanism of consumer society actions.

The term art industry might not have become familiar yet, but the techniques of organizational management were spread to it. For is money spent on today? For very rich people it is a diversification of assets portfolio. Those who are of modest means pay for visiting exhibitions, and the ambitious try to be a part of prestigious gatherings.

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The occurrence of investors and venture capitalists led to the cultivation of two types of consumers, the elite and the mass consumer. For the latter, who did not go through informational treatment and because of that could not appreciate a certain promoted product, other consumer goods are created which are not demanding intellectual preparation, as elite art, rather than factor related to the psychology of the crowd and appealing not as much to emotions, as to instincts.

An example of such contemporary issues in arts can be seen in the article “Sold!” by Carl Swanson. Published in the October issue of New York Magazine in 2007, the article discussed the sensational resignation of Lisa Dennison from the position of the director of Guggenheim. In her new position, she was engaged in the business development of the auction Sotheby’s. Dennison now helps to replenish the collection of those who have accumulated large sums of money, mostly in Asia and Russia.

Dennison’s new boss Tobias Meyer compares the interests of today’s nouveau riche to the art “icons” of the 20th century, gathered in America, to the robber barons’ fascination with European paintings, and as he stated, “As the Americans were buying Gainsborough’s in 1910, the New Economy is buying portions of bacon and Rothko’s in 2010,”(Swanson, 2007)

Dennison revealed the reason for leaving, stating that museums have ceased to be competitive in the conditions of today’s market, which made her work too difficult, especially after the new CEO of the museum changed its mission, emphasizing the creation and the globalization of the brand of Guggenheim, as an analogy to such brands as McDonald’s and Coca-Cola. It can be seen that Dennison attempted to convince her and others that her work in Sotheby’s differs little from her former job. It can be understood though, that if the former job served higher goals and helped to keep self-respect, in the new role she is deprived of it.

Today at auctions the auctions people applaud not for the artist, but for the buyer who spent a fantastic sum. On the crest of the speculation, the prices are raised for the works of known artists. In such a way, Klimt’s portrait was sold about three years ago for a record sum of $135 million, which in no small measure was related to the international scandal connected with its return by the Austrian government to its owners heiress. (VOGEL, 2006)

In that regard, the recent concerns of art and heritage can be seen to be associated mainly with the legal aspects of art preservation. According to such protection, it can be seen that art is protected as it is related to the national and cultural identity of a particular nation. Thus, art can be considered as a reflection of the cultural heritage and preserving works of arts, nations are preserving their cultural heritage. Through works of art, it can be seen what made a particular epoch the way it was, where the history can be written according to the artistic works of different historical periods.


It can be concluded that art is an inseparable sector of the world’s culture which was and still influencing the course of social consciousness. In that regard, it should be outlined that art is also influenced by the changes in social and economic models, turning art into an industry. It should be mentioned that this industry is a profitable one, but the question that should be asked, whether the power of art can sufficiently resist the economic influence of the market, remaining neutral and free of bias. Whether the cultural value of the works of art remains free of such marketing terms as “promotion” and “hype”. The answer to such a question is not easy, but it can be predicted that it depends totally on the people. As stated earlier in the paper, specific work can be considered a work of art if it was perceived that way by people with expertise in art, while the more modern definition states that “a work of art is anything that anyone has ever considered a work of art.” (Carey, 2006) Thus, it can be said that the answer to the aforementioned questions can lie in the characteristics of the majority that fall into the category of “anyone” in the last definition of a work of art.


ADORNO, T. W., ADORNO, G., TIEDEMANN, R. & HULLOT-KENTOR, R. (2004) Aesthetic theory, London ; New York, Continuum.

CAREY, J. (2006) What good are the arts?, Oxford ; New York, Oxford University Press.

DAGUE-BARR, D. (2009) The Power of Art In Society. Modesto Junior College. Web.

HOFFMAN, B. T. (2006) Art and cultural heritage : law, policy, and practice, Cambridge ; New York, Cambridge University Press.

HOPKINS, D. (2000) After modern art : 1945-2000, Oxford ; New York, Oxford University Press.

SWANSON, C. (2007) Sold! , New York Magazine. Web.

VOGEL, C. (2006) Lauder Pays $135 Million, a Record, for a Klimt Portrait. New York Times. Web.

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