The Role of Culture In Contemporary Art

by Lisa Sahgal
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Have you ever wondered why Renaissance art was given so much Global importance during the Modern Period?

This was a time when differences weren’t celebrated as differences; there was always a hierarchy, and there was always a ‘better’ difference. Modern style of art topped the list. Other countries outside Europe, based in; Middle East, Africa, and Asia engaged in unique cultural art practices which was quickly deemed ‘uncivilised’ by Colonial apparatuses. A lot of Countries were under Colonial apparatus, and this is why Renaissance art was given more importance.

“Modern” art practices were incorporated in these traditional art forms, to retain their heritage yet follow the basic “rules” of art.

But a lot of artists tried to do away with their traditional art practices, and the Colonial apparatus would prevent it. Traditional Chinese and Indian art was highly in Demand, and a lot of objects were taken from these countries to be displayed in their famous museums. Why do you think that is? They openly favoured their own art form, but somewhere, there was this unspoken preference for the diverse art practices rich in culture.

Take a look at Contemporary Society. The National Art Gallery is a famous institution for Modern Art. People love to go there to get an essence of the work, but there is always a point in which they’ve seen too much. There isn’t a single story the World doesn’t know of. Take Religion for example. The entire Bible is based on one story, and one God.

Because of this, the tables have turned: Ironically, it is the ignorance of traditional art practices that has currently drawn us to them. There is this foreign element, the alien, the spiritual. We are fascinated, and we want to learn more about them. The British Museum always attracts an excited crowd. There is always a long cue outside the building, and a crowded interior, because this Museum has the acquisition of ancient objects from all over the Globe. There is never a point in which one sees too much, just the point where your legs tire. The question is, why?

Because unlike Christianity, many cultures have many stories about many Gods and Goddesses. The World has this fascination towards Indian and Greek mythologies. Knowing our mythology well, we have this perception that Greek mythology is more intriguing than our own. The truth is, we are at par. For one, our mythologies have the same, three main Gods with a difference in appearance, and similarity in storyline.

In contemporary Society, artists no longer hide from their culture. Rather; they take full advantage of it to capture the audience. They use mythologies to tackle contemporary issues. For example, the Goddess Kali is often used as an icon for feminism in our Country.

Our culture is a weapon for contemporary art practices, not only to discuss identity, but because our stories and style of making is extremely intriguing to the universal eye. For artists and those interested in the Art Market, this is an important aspect of contemporary art to focus on, because it is highly in demand.

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