Has photography changed fine art?


The Ancestor - Tina Barney (2011) C-type printUndeniably, since the invention of photography fine art has gained a new medium. However, it took some time until artists started to distance themselves from pencil, oil and canvases.

Nevertheless, we are still seeing the same people in oeuvres d’art, such as in Tina Barney‘s photograph the ancestors (on the right).

The photograph depicts two upper class gentlemen in the salon of their home. In the background of the image, there is an old and very classic portrait of an upper class hero. Looking at the body posture and at the way how the men dress it becomes clear that nothing has changed within a couple of decades: they are still dressing in an elegant and in the same “upper-class” style. Although the photograph does not depict anything new, it realised a price of 6,000 pounds at the January auction at Christie’s in 2010.

Many modern photographs shown at the Seduced by Art exhibition in London are concerned with ever-present issues. But, this kind of re-producing art is not the kind of art, which has an impact on building art history.

The field of fine arts is further developed by depicting what people do not see in everyday life, whether it is shocking or aesthetically, painted or photographed. The message of art is its intrinsic meaning.

It is well-known that artists are repeating and copying from each other. Damien Hirst, for example, was one of the first artists, who have started to transform art production into a well-run business. However, in comparison to his American pendant Jeff Koons, he does not have a background as a commodity broker. But Koons and Hirst are not the only artists following a business concept of art production. Also Andy Warhol’s Factory produced art for the masses. And what about commissioned art in earlier centuries? It was also primarily produced for a broader audience, namely the general public.

Notably, the London Business School mentions Hirst’s concept in lectures since many years. Not only is Hirst’s art business outsourcing the major part of his art production to other artists, which are converting his ideas into objects, but also does he hardly create art by his own hands. But keeping in mind, even in the antique Rome sculptures and mural art by Raphael and Michelangelo were produced not only by the artists themselves but by many smaller, unknown artists; and many of them have never been credited for their work.

This raises the question if art will only be successful if an artist is eager to show off his work and wants to be accredited for it. And then, decades later, the way how it was produced and who produced it will be remembered. Hence, this is the art which makes history.

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