Just throwing out a couple more quotes taken from “The Love of Art” by Pierre Bourdieu and Alain Darbell,* first published in France in 1969. This book is essentially a report and analysis of a series of public surveys conducted at museums around Europe with the aim of understanding the audience for those institutions and addressing the perceived need to expand their reach amongst the population. The book is arguing against an assumption of innate or “natural” cultural sensitivity which can somehow be “activated,” pointing to the role of the social environment in which we grow up and length of our education in the formation of cultural receptivity which needs an equivalent input later on in life if the individual is to be acculturated (as it were). Needless to say, “class” gets heavily implicated in the receptivity (or not) of cultural material.
Art and the artist’s relation to society has always fascinated me, particularly the role of the commodity in the art system. Because of the mutability of the nature of the artworks, commodification is part and parcel of it, and (but?) always seems to end up being problematic for it or the artist.
The fashion powerhouse wins here by appropriating art, linking the house of Dior brand to the (false but potent) notion that art is above commodification. The uncritical revelry of some artists in their own newly minted celebrity mirrors the embrace of art as fetish commodity and store-bought cultural capital for the nouveau riche, and echoes the dream of material accumulation, while eliding grotesque social inequality in a country where one superrich individual is worth more money than Gansu province, population twenty-six million. When art becomes parasitical on fashion and cedes its capacity to offer critical optics for viewing the human condition, we can legitimately moan about co-optation; and when artists appropriate capital to realise works that extend their explorations and serve their aesthetic visions, we can celebrate. Christian Dior & Chinese Artists gives us cause for a bit of both.