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Works of art are great assets to contemporary society since they reflect identity and values of diverse cultures in the world. Since art is an integral part of the public domain, privatization of art foundations and museums in the recent past, has attracted many criticisms concerning the fate of cultural identity and values.
Critics argue that, cultural arts give the society a sense of identity and preserve its values amidst threatening forces of globalization. The critics hold that privatization creates an environment where cultural artifacts and folklores will undergo modification to suit individual interests at the expense of the society.
In contrast, proponents of privatization argue that, contemporary arts are increasingly diverse due to the creativity of artists and emergence of technology. Many of contemporary artists do not display their artistic works in public museums for they want to secure their artistic rights.
Thus, contemporary artists opt to display their arts in the private art foundations and museums where public have equally access like public museums.
Ting argues that the work of art “is both excellent in quality and socially responsible, can be carried out within diverse professional realms, given pervasive challenges in contemporary society: rapid technological advancement, overpowering market forces, and the decline of any one dominant ethical doctrine” (2).
Therefore, private art foundations have provided a rich environment for the growth of private exhibitions due to increasing creativity of artists, diversity of societal norms, technological advancement, and economic aspects amidst changing ethical values in contemporary society.
Creativity of Artists
The field of arts is growing tremendously in the modern society due to increasing wealth of knowledge and skills that the artists have accumulated over the centuries. Ancient artists based their artistic works on the cultural beliefs and societal values that formed part of their immediate environment.
In contrast, modern artists have expanded their artistic horizons and incorporated elements and values from diverse cultures and traditions across the world.
Since their artistic works are very captivating, private art foundations have encouraged the artists to be more creative and come up with creative arts that will encourage people to visit private exhibitions. Due to their creativity, the contemporary artists have really changed the perception and expanded importance of arts.
Ting argues, “whether an artwork is ‘good’ or not in any universal sense is irrelevant when discussing contemporary art, since art has become a matter of taste, … it has only to do with whether or not it affords an individual pleasure” (17).
Hence, contemporary society perceives arts based on social, cultural, economic, political, religious, and individual perceptions, which are very subjective.
The subjective perception of arts by the people gives the artists freedom to explore their creativity with objective of meeting diverse needs of the people.
The private art foundations provide a place where artists can display their arts for the public to view and/or buy, unlike in the past where artists could only display their arts in public museums.
Artists enjoy the privilege of advertisement and goodwill of the private art foundation because such foundations enable them to increase their sales and improve their fame.
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In Australia, the emergence of private art foundations such as Museum Old and New Art (MONA) has attracted many talented artists to bring their art works for exhibitions.
Increasing number of artists in the private exhibitions is creating a competitive environment and pool of artists, which is essential for the growth and development of arts in the society. David Walsh is a powerful entrepreneur and art collector who opened an $80 million private museum, MONA.
When asked about the nature of arts to be in exhibitions, he replied, “we don’t know what ‘good’ is, we’re never going to know what ‘good’ is because there is no such a thing as ‘good’.
There is taste, style, charisma, pizzazz, charm, and chutzpah … millions words for describing the same thing…” (Coslovich 6). Therefore, in the light of Walsh’s insights, it is clear that artistic works is about creativity while perception of the viewers comes second.
Art forms an integral part of the contemporary society because it reflects historical values and identity relative to modern values and identity.
The creative arts that people view in private and public exhibitions are fascinating and provocative in their depictions as they make people question their origin, identity, and destiny.
The artistic works give people sense of historical and future identity in the society that is tremendously changing due to interaction of varied cultures, traditions, and beliefs.
Modern creativity in arts has no boundaries since contemporary artists have incorporated many artistic elements that cut across nations and cultures in a bid to come up with arts that have international significance.
Ting argues that “it is conceivable that what we are currently seeing in the realm of art will not be what will count in retrospect as representative of the ‘art of our times’ due to creativity” (8).
Private art foundation like MONA offers creative freedom for the artists to explore their talents and for the public to enjoy viewing several artistic works.
Diversity of Societal Norms
Since art has both national and international significance, private art foundations are grappling with the challenge of satisfying both demands.
Ancient society had stringent values and beliefs due to religion, culture, and traditions, which made it difficult for the artists to design standard arts that could cut across all values and beliefs that the society upheld.
Existence of diverse values and beliefs across the world made it difficult for the artists to design culturally sensitive arts and at the same time make intercultural or international sense.
Designing of culturally sensitive and international acceptable arts is possible because private art foundations provide a platform where artists and the public interact effectively in terms of arts perceptions leading to the development of customized art designs for the benefits of the public.
In response to the issue of diversity, Ting posits that “it is appropriate that contemporary art refuses to fit neatly into any kind of model, including the model for GoodWork, since part of the profession’s very purpose is to question notions of norms and standards” (9).
Beliefs and values associated with certain religious, 2cultural, or traditional aspects of the society hinder development and standardization of norms. Integration of diverse norms into artistic works can only be effective if people accept and acknowledge the existence of diversity in the society
Although diverse norms in the society may act as barriers to the standardization and liberalization of artistic realm, they provide the source of grand ideas that are imperative in designing of creative arts that are appealing to the public.
The private art foundations focus on attracting diverse people from all corners of the world, thus existence of diversity in their art exhibitions is important.
The more diverse the art exhibitions are, the more attracted the public is and eventually development of lucrative relationship that will see the collectors and artists benefit greatly from the sale of artistic works in the private art foundations.
In spite of the existence of societal constraints, MONA is a private art foundation that has demonstrated liberalization of artists from societal norms that have been limiting freedom of artistic expressions.
Concerning David Walsh, the collector and entrepreneur behind MONA, Coslovich argues that, “his hope is that MONA will become a temple of ‘secular thinking’, a haven for those who do not want to sink into the swamp of groupthink – be it the groupthink of the mainstream or of cliques” (3).
His objective is to divorce artistic expressions from societal norms and enhance freedom of expression of the artists to create diverse arts. David Walsh argues that in arts, there is nothing ‘good’ or ‘bad’ because perception depends on the person perceiving the artistic works.
Diversity of norms in the society gives artistic paradox. Some norms act as hindrance to the freedom of artistic expression because they restrict artists from expanding their creative skills. Hence diversity becomes undesirable for the growth and development of arts.
Ironically, diversity of norms provides basis of designing and creating diverse arts that attract different kinds of people across the world; therefore, diversity becomes the heart of private art foundations.
In art exhibitions, the public gets attracted to strange and new arts as compared to the familiar arts that have religious or cultural expressions.
Due to artistic paradox, private art foundations delicately balance between diversity of arts to reflect diverse societal norms and creation of standard arts that have cross-cultural significance.
Ting insinuates that artist and the world of arts are distinct entities in that, “working within the unstable conditions of the profession, artists who enter the professional realm may find the need to make a living conflicting with their artistic intentions” (11).
Hence, artists experience great challenges when balancing their personal values and artistic demands that are at times, overwhelming to personal beliefs and values. David Walsh asserts that freedom of artistic expression is the cornerstone of the private art foundations because it formed the basis for the establishment of MONA.
Due to technological advancement in the contemporary society, it has become possible to preserve cultural artifacts of the past centuries. Private art foundations have significantly demonstrated that they have the ability to preserve these artifacts for posterity.
However, critics argue that privatization of cultural heritage is a breach of heritage rights that require preservation of cultural property for the benefit of current and future generations.
Brown argues that “efforts to preserve intangible heritage have tended to follow information society models by proposing that heritage be inventoried, then removed from the public domain and returned to the exclusive control of its putative creators” (40).
The technology favors development of private art foundations as centers of arts, culture, and education in the modern society. Since private art foundations have the ability to attract public and scholars from various parts of the world, it follows that they have capacity to preserve and exhibit arts for the benefit of public.
Realizing that technology is imperative in the preservation and exhibition of cultural heritage, the Australian government supported establishment of Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation (SCAF) in 2008 to enhance education, research, innovation, and exhibitions of contemporary arts.
SCAF has gained international status due to the application of technology in the creation, preservation, exhibition, and sale of contemporary arts to diverse people who emanate from various parts of the world.
“Heritage preservation should be, a means to the end of fostering societies in which minority communities have a voice in decisions about future where they can attain the same prosperity available to everyone else, should they choose to do so” (Brown 53).
In view of this insight, private art foundations are working in concert with the governments, educational institutions, and the public in ensuring that creation and exhibition of arts embrace technology as effective means of fostering societal norms.
Given that private art, foundations have attracted many artists; they have upper hand in embracing technology as compared to public museums that have few artists. Successful private art foundations like MONA and SCAF have employed technology in their creation, exhibitions, and sale of contemporary arts.
The tremendous growth of these foundations is due to the application of technology in every aspect of arts development and exhibition. Artists do prefer taking their artworks to the private art foundations because many people visit these foundations to view exhibitions and thus they are potential customers for the new arts.
Availability of the customers in the private art foundations encourages artists to be creative and therefore enhances application of technology.
Moreover, to attract more customers, private foundations have established lucrative relationship with the customers through online advertisements that reach millions of people across the world.
Brown argues that technology is very essential in “…ensuring the viability of the intangible cultural heritage, including the identification, documentation, research, preservation, protection, promotion, enhancement, transmission particularly through formal and non-informal education, as well as the revitalization of various aspects of such heritage” (47).
Thus, for the private arts to appeal to the greater part of the public, application of technology is very critical because it enhances effective interaction between the private art foundations, the public, and other stakeholders such as artists, schools and the government when enhancing the development of arts in the society.
The prime objective of transforming private arts and private art foundations is to form lucrative business of arts that generates profit and creates employment to artists and collectors.
For centuries, artists have been struggling to establish private museums and foundations, but the society was not yet ready to accept privatization of cultural arts, which formed dominant proportion of arts during that time.
It has been a daunting task for the artists and collectors to convince the society that privatization of cultural art would not affect cultural values and beliefs of the community. According to a study conducted on the diversity of America’s museums, it showed that private arts forms over 90% of art collections found in public gallery.
The findings show that private arts and foundations have overwhelming contribution to the development of arts and subsequent economic development of a country.
“To ensure the continued growth, diversification, and relevance of these incomparable resources, the development, and cultivation of strategic relationships with private collectors is a high priority for museum directors” (Ballinger 1).
The government of Australia has realized economic potential of private art foundations and is currently collaborating with MONA and SCAF in establishing lucrative business relationships that are beneficial to the public.
Private art foundations provide lucrative business for the art collectors and artists because the public pays a certain fee to viewing exhibitions and at times, buy the arts. Contemporary arts have revolutionized perception and use of arts in the society.
Revolution is evident because the private art foundations have established lucrative and successful business using arts, which have led to the recognition of arts as emerging business opportunity for artists and art collectors to venture.
Apart from MONA and SCAF private art foundations in Australia, Beyeler Museum in Switzerland has also emerged depicting that art foundations have great economic potential that can boost economic status of a country if properly managed.
Meier and Frey argue that “development of private art museums in Europe has tremendously led to increased number of visitors, public museums, and private museums that translates into economic development” (2).
This implies that private art foundations have stimulation effect on the growth of public museums and increases number of people who attend art exhibitions.
In the United States of America, the government has recognized economic potential of private art museums and has decided to give financial support to collectors and artists as means of cushioning them against risks they normally encounter when providing their arts and services to the public.
MONA, SCAF, and Beyeler are the best examples of private art exhibitions that have transformed the lives of collectors and artists and set standards for the development of other private art foundations.
Australia has received a significant economic boost due to emergence of private museums since there is an increasing number of tourists and citizens who view exhibitions and buy arts.
The growth of private art foundations has been possible due to the presence of artists, collectors, and the public as consumers of the artistic works and services. Economic experts argue that private arts have great economic potential if placed in public galleries or in private museums for the people to access quite easily.
Moreover, the experts assert that diversity of artistic works determines the competitive advantage of a private art foundation over public museums.
The contemporary realm of arts has become very competitive as Ting divulges that, “…what we are witnessing is the epitome of market-driven production, where recognized artist practitioners are pressured to compete with media and entertainment, and to engage in shock tactics and technology in order to draw in attention” (9).
Entrepreneurs, collectors, and artists are struggling hard in the private art foundations to ensure that they keep abreast with the dynamics of business and the world of arts lest the public museums overtake and overthrow their market share in public exhibitions.
The freedoms of artistic expressions have provided opportunity for the private arts to thrive in public and private museums in an effort to ensure that the public can easily access art exhibitions whenever they want.
Creativity has significantly boosted the foundations of the private art because their creative arts are attracting increasing number of the people as compared to public museums.
Although diversity of norms in the contemporary society may act as hindrance to creativity, it provides diverse artistic ideas that are essential in generation of creative arts that meet the demands of different norms in the society.
Australia is setting precedent by establishment of private art foundation since she has MONA and SCAF as successful and lucrative foundations that create employment to the artists and collectors, hence making a significant contribution to the economic growth.
Ballinger, James. “Art Museums, Private Collectors, and the Public Benefit.” Association Of Art Museum Directors, 2007: 1-23.
Brown, Michael. “Heritage Trouble: Recent Work on the Protection of Intelligible Cultural Property.” International Journal of Cultural Property 12.3 (2003): 40-61.
Coslovich, Gabriela. “A Revolt in Art.” The Age, 2011: 1-27.
Meier, Stephan, and Frey, Bruno. “Private Faces in Public Places: The Case of a Private Art Museum in Europe.” Cultural Economics 3.3 (2003): 1-16.
Ting, Tiffanie. “An Exploration of GoodWork in Contemporary Visual Art.” GoodWork Project Report Series 20.6 (2002): 1-31