The Fine Art Cultural Niche
WHEN PEOPLE TALK ABOUT "art," most often they are referring to Fine Art. What we see when we look at Fine Art are ideologies and institutions that predate mass-media, mass-market culture. Fine Art now plays the role of art for art's sake, pure art, made in a context independent of mass culture. The role of the contemporary fine artist is analogous to the role of the researcher in science who does pure research without any immediate practical value.
In this chapter we will sketch out the historical evolution of Fine Art, showing how its institutions and ideologies have evolved from birth to maturity to its contemporary old age. Although most of the reasons that Fine Art is not as influential as it once was have to do with the growth of needs that it could not fill, there are also changes in Fine Art itself which have caused it to lose its controlling power in culture, as we will discuss.
When we think of art in the twentieth century we think of paintings and sculptures specifically made to be admired for their aesthetic form. These art objects have no other function than to hang on the wall or sit in