The Commercialization of Art: Doomsday or Passing Cloud?

Article by: Jin Sun Park

Photograph by: Liah Gomez

Premature praise for dystopian films and excitement for novels that fault stars are now being challenged by the arrival of a new sentiment in mainstream social conversation: disgust with the commercialization of the arts. However, behind all the disgust and sighs heaved for yet another movie set in a futuristic wasteland is a variety of reasons that require closer investigation to fairly judge newly emerging commercial trends in the arts.

Some sigh at the unfamiliarity of these new trends especially given technology’s unprecedented role in commercializing the arts. HS Choir teacher Melodie Hausman notes that “music used to be ephemeral, but technology has allowed us to capture it into an everlasting art form”. In the 1960s for example, only a select few living in Britain could attend a Beatles’ gig, but today anyone with a computer and Internet connection can either book tickets online or virtually recreate the experience numerous times in the comfort of their homes. Additionally, technology has changed the face of music itself, having birthed an entirely new genre from digital sound bytes: Dubstep. HS Band teacher, Tom Nazareno, recounts that when he first heard Dubstep, “[he] sounded like [his] mom, [as he exclaimed] what is that racket playing on the stereo?” And such unfamiliarity may simply be the inevitable and regularly occurring side-effect of the generation gap.

Movies too seem to be losing a sense of preciousness as the business increasingly capitalizes on pre-established, die-hard fan bases and their incessant appetites. Prominent examples include the massive Marvel and DC fan bases for whom comic-to-film adaptations are being released at astonishing rates. While some may lack the poignance and thought-provoking material necessary to win accolades, the industry still profits from moviegoers’ temporarily sufficient satisfaction with seeing beloved superheroes on the screen. Unfortunately this incentive takes away from the multidimensional nature of art. As a result, today’s artists are faced with a dilemma: should they produce sensational, and digestible entertainment that appeals to the masses or express confounding, thought-provoking reflections upon the human condition that only they may value?

The advent of commercialized art has even caused many to question its validity and fear a possible doomsday for meaningful art. However, trends disappear as quickly as they emerge and hopefully, the overt commercialization of art will be a passing cloud that unveils art that is wise and far-reaching. Visual Arts teacher Carmel Lim adds that our attitude towards the arts in the present may be distorted “since we’re in the midst of it rather than looking back” and thus cannot yet see in retrospect. Perhaps we might even look back at today’s commercialized art with a sense of nostalgia tomorrow and think: now that was real art.