“How capitalism can save art”

by on October 8, 2012 at 12:30 pm in Economics, The Arts | Permalink

That is the new Op-Ed by Camille Paglia, excerpt:

Creativity is in fact flourishing untrammeled in the applied arts, above all industrial design. Over the past 20 years, I have noticed that the most flexible, dynamic, inquisitive minds among my students have been industrial design majors. Industrial designers are bracingly free of ideology and cant. The industrial designer is trained to be a clear-eyed observer of the commercial world—which, like it or not, is modern reality.

…Young people today are avidly immersed in this hyper-technological environment, where their primary aesthetic experiences are derived from beautifully engineered industrial design. Personalized hand-held devices are their letters, diaries, telephones and newspapers, as well as their round-the-clock conduits for music, videos and movies. But there is no spiritual dimension to an iPhone, as there is to great works of art.

Paglia’s new book is here.  For the pointer I thank Alex T.

Joe Eagar October 8, 2012 at 12:42 pm

“But there is no spiritual dimension to an iPhone, as there is to great works of art”

I find that offensive. There are plenty of commercial applications that constitute real art, and the iPhone—which is perhaps the most beautifully designed piece of consumer electronics ever—isn’t a soulless piece of capitalism.

Millian October 8, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Do we have any evidence that the iPhone is “perhaps the most beautifully designed piece of consumer electronics ever”? Beauty isn’t about popularity, otherwise we’ll have some strange results about cars and furniture. A piece designed as an – essentially – non-durable good for profit is inherently going to lack spirit.

axa October 8, 2012 at 3:04 pm

remember that cars are now “consumer electronics”

Sbard October 8, 2012 at 4:33 pm

“Beauty isn’t about popularity”

Why wouldn’t it be. In what way are standards of beauty not a matter of social consensus.

GiT October 8, 2012 at 5:38 pm
The Original D October 8, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Do you doubt that one day iPhones will be in museums?

GiT October 9, 2012 at 1:41 am

…a museum of technological history.

mae east October 8, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Would a beautifully designed and crafted crackpipe be more worthy than an tacky ugly barebones version?

maguro October 8, 2012 at 3:12 pm

If crack ever becomes the drug of choice for the SWPL set, artisinal crackpipes are sure to follow.

Sbard October 8, 2012 at 5:24 pm

There are certainly plenty of people out there who spend lots of money on handcrafted “tobacco smoking accessories”.

The Original D October 8, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Just the other day I walked by what one could describe as an upscale head shop.

Carl October 8, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Perfectly meaningless discussion.

John Voorheis October 8, 2012 at 3:20 pm

I’m pretty sure if you set a machine learning alogrithm loose on a training database of 1000 or so consersative blog posts you end up with something like this. This is good news for the WSJ’s bottom line – they can outsource vapid arts criticism op-eds to a couple lines of Python code.

Mark Thorson October 8, 2012 at 4:31 pm

A couple lines of handcrafted, artisinal Python code.

DocMerlin October 8, 2012 at 7:19 pm


Bill October 8, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Shouldn’t the title be reversed?


Art and Design

Saved Capitalism.

Written an my well designed IPad while visiting an art museum devoted to illustrators.

uffthefluff October 8, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Unless I am mistake, “capitalism” has been rewarding painters and other “non-commercial” artists with ever-greater sums of real compensation for quite some time now. Is Hirst not better paid than Picasso adjusted for inflation? Yes, AAPL, if taken to be an artist or group of artists, appears even higher paid, but so what?

What does this woman want visual artists to do differently other than to “treat” religions other than Christianity and “respect” capitalism? Surely visual artists as a group do plenty of both already?

uffthefluff October 8, 2012 at 6:57 pm


DocMerlin October 8, 2012 at 7:55 pm

s/can save/saved/

There, fixed it for you.

Tracy W October 9, 2012 at 11:06 am

I’ve certainly read enough blurbs in catalogues that talk about how the artist “explores” but never says what they discovered on said explorations.
And by now I think the question of “what is art” is the most thoroughly answered question ever in the history of humanity: museum curators can be persuaded to stick anything inside their museum which is physically possible to fit, and photos or videos of whatever isn’t. It’s high time to move onto a new question.

Matt B October 9, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Let’s not forget that art is entirely subjective. As is capitalism. When the consumer of art is willing to pay for it, they are voting with extreme prejudice. If one says, “This is art”, then to him that is exactly what it is. It may be lost on the critic to determine what industrial and commercial mass produced master pieces constitute as art, but it is art non the less. Case in point, what one piece of industrial commercial mass produced product sat in the entire space of the Guggenheim? The answer, Motorcycles. I see for no reason in 50 years we will be staring in wonder and amazement at our hand held devices no encased in protective glass.

Courtney October 11, 2012 at 12:28 am

The beauty of art is that there is no true ‘correct version.’ While she says that most fine art is dead, she tends to neglect the fact that this art wouldn’t be around if people didn’t find it ‘beautiful.’ An iphone may not be the same as an aged painting, but many people use it to the benefit of arts-related pursuits, and to amazing results. Take a look at one of the many art sites that lurk amongst the internet, and you can find high-quality, breath-taking pieces of art. Fine art hasn’t actually died; it has only evolved to better fit the changing times.

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