The economic and social changes brought about by Westernization and economic development are having a profound influence on artistic expression. As the mode of life changes, the functional, symbolic and stylized traditional art is losing its purpose, and both artist and audience, confronted with new and often contradictory esthetic values, tend to be confused. The contemporary artist, trained in Europe or in the Ivory Coast by Europeans, struggles to balance the influence of two diverse cultures. In contrast to his traditional counterpart, who was an integral member of the community and whose work was essential to the religious and cultural life of the people, the contemporary artist finds a more ready patronage among Europeans than among his own countrymen. The conflict between traditional and Western values has prompted an effort on the part of many African artists and intellectuals to develop an art which will define and express the African personality in the modern world. This search for an African personality or for "negritude" is less pronounced in the Ivory Coast than in some other West African countries, but it is nevertheless present (see ch. 11, Social Values and Patterns of Living).
Artistic expression in traditional societies of West Africa was an adjunct to social and religious practices and ceremonies; there was almost no tradition of art for art's sake. The advent of Westernization brought with it new forms of artistic expression--painting, lithography, writing--and established a value of art for its own sake. The two art worlds exist side by side in the Ivory Coast today.
Until recently, interest in the artistic wealth of the Ivory Coast was higher among Europeans than among Ivory Coasters themselves. Educated Ivory Coasters, steeped in the traditions of French culture, for the most part regarded traditional artistic expression as primitive and an embarrassing reminder of the country's backwardness. Their preference lay with what they considered to be the more sophisticated European art. However, growing national pride and increasing interest in the history of Africa, fostered by the government in an effort to unify the people, are bringing with them a growing interest in the cultural and artistic traditions of the people themselves. The government has been spending both effort and money to collect the best examples of known Ivory Coast art, many of which have to be recovered from Europe, for preservation in the National Museum in Abidjan.