Article By STEPHEN JOHNSTONE
Artwork Arhythmic construction, 1969 By DIET SAYLER
Who Is Art For
Art, it is now frequently asserted, should have as wide an audience as possible. Not only that, but it is also commonly assumed that art is good for whoever sees it and that exposure to the 'serious' culture of visual art educates as well as entertains its audience. It is also the case that a number of recent Western governments have positioned culture (and art in particular) at the forefront of political debates about access and equality and have linked the idea of the greater social good to the issue of public subsidy in the arts. As Mary Warnock points out in her introduction to Art for All? Their Policies and our Culture, within the terms of this debate
"the opposite of accessible is elitist, and it is the avoidance of this that policy seems above all to be directed".
But this has not always been the case and many critics and artists have held (and many still hold) that art cannot address a mass audience and that art may require specialist knowledge or even a special sensibility to comprehend it. In addition, art may be positioned as something that is uncomfortable or that challenges accepted values, in which case art might well offend the sensibilities of an audience expecting entertainment or affirmation.