“Gallery worthy”

So quickly am I distracted.

I saw this post from WebUrbanist.com on Urban Mural Projects and thought it might provide a nice counter-post to my last post on Meme Art. But then I read the introduction to the post, and, well … I can’t keep my overly critical mouth shut (fingers still?)

The post begin thus:

Far removed from the small-time taggers that can’t resist any unmarked urban surface, muralists and street artists bring gallery-worthy art to the streets where they can be enjoyed by all.

Gallery-worthy? Let’s unpack the term.

First, the term creates a dichotomy: “in-the-gallery” and “out-of-the-gallery”. The dichotomy presents a problem similar to that created by the term “Commonwealth Literature.” “Commonwealth Literature” commonly referes to literature written in English, but not in the British Isles, implying the center of English literature is England (a commonsensical notion at one time, perhaps, but simply wrong these days, as writers like Salman Rushdie have argued and proven). In the same way, by using the gallery as the locus by which one designates artistic spaces (gallery vs. non-gallery), one implies the centrality of the gallery to artistic understanding or value.

Secondly, once this dichotomy is established in the mind, it is not difficulty to begin speaking of a piece of art being ‘gallery-worthy’ — that is, good enough to be included in a gallery where, as we all know, includes only the best art. This is elitist at best and pure silliness.

I’m not saying the author of the WebUrban post intended any of this, but the term ‘gallery worthy’ certainly implies elitism.

CAVEAT: I am not arguing for some artistic egalitarianism; simply that the gallery is not a central, determining factor of artistic merit. If anything, the whole concept of an ‘art gallery’ — a place where art is divorced from any social, religious, and/or civil purpose, where art is quarantined — seems to me to be a rather specious concept. The concept of a public mural seems much closer to the aesthetic and social verities of art, even when, as in Laser Cats, the mural itself takes little notice of the fact.

Nitpickery done, check out some of the wonderful work — some of it quite quarantine-worthy.



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