What is the Value of Art That Can’t Be Collected?
You may be surprised that museums may only collect as artwork if it is deemed that it will last 500 years in reasonable condition before any significant restoration needs to be done. Obviously museums play a particular and important role in preserving artefacts of human exixstance. Nonetheless, many significant events and milestones have taken place in human history that we now have no remnants or relics. Although their are cave paintings depicting the use of fire, and mosaics of carts and chariots with wheels, we do not have a comprehensive and complete set of human achievenmtns. We’re still looking for the ‘missing link’!
Although we now have all manner of ways of recording events and preserving materials, even within a hundred years there will already be gaps in our collections of life in the early 21st-century. We do things everyday that we don’t make a record of, and art is really no different in the wide range of human existence. In fact humans have carried out ceremonies and rituals of religious or social significance in secret for millennia, and in the age of secularism art and artists can take on this role.
For example, many of the performances and conceptual art of feminism in the 1960s-70s were never recorded or documented, yet to the people involved at the time it was life changing. Women were living for the moment, seeking change, and pushing the boundaries of newly found freedoms. The idea of continuing the patriarchal lineage of institutional art history was indeed anathema to feminist thinking, and many of the interventions were highly critical of the artworld status quo.
The idea of art being ephemeral,, momentary, transient, has many advantages, especially in drawing attention to the transitory nature of our own existance. The ubiquitous bronze statue adorning our public parks is testament to our human desire to be remembered and to remain immortal, but the fact is, none of us will, and in millennia to come all will be forgotten. A work such as Azevedo’s above, speaks volume to this notion.
So it is good to remember that being an artist and creating art is not necessarily about making long lasting artworks, worthy of museological collection, and that it can encompass a broad range of ideas and outcomes, as far and wide as human existence itself; and so art should be. The world would be a poorer place if art was only made for the wealthy. There is something really special about art that reaches only a few, and leaves no trace behind, yet for those it touches, brings new insights into themselves and the world around them.