I’ve seen shirts with Frida Kahlo’s self-portrait on it, phone cases of the Starry Night, scarves with Klimt’s The Kiss on it. For a long time, this commercialization of art really bothered me. I felt we were doing a disservice to the artist, who made the piece with nothing but human emotion, by throwing the painting into a computer and running it through some machines to mass produce it. There is so much lost from the piece of art in this process. I felt the days of going to the Louvre to see The Mona Lisa were gone; now are the days of printing it on a shirt and writing something angsty like “Weirdo” over her head.
I still feel like this, but now I’m a little confused. I recently stumbled upon a quote by Keith Haring, saying, “If commercialization is putting my art on a shirt so that a kid who can’t afford a $30,000 piece of art can buy one, then I’m all for it.” Now I’m not so sure about how I feel. Perhaps it’s a disservice to the artist to commercialize their art, but then again perhaps not commercializing it is a disservice to those who love art, but can’t afford it.
I also feel a little guilty for being against the commercialization of art. Am I being pretentious? The art world ran by the elite is exactly what I don’t want. If stopping the commercialization of art makes artists stop caring about how lower-income people perceive their art, then that’s exactly what I’m advocating for.
I’m at a big crossroads right now. My love for the spirit of art is tugging at me, but so is my sense of socioeconomic equality and justice. I really would like to reach out to other people and see how you all feel about this. I’m curious to hear some other point of views on the following ideas:
- Was there a point where you realized that you’re for/against commercialization?
- Would you ever be okay with your art being reproduced?
- Frida Kahlo was a communist, do you think it’s okay to reproduce her and her works even though she was against it?
- Was Keith Haring maybe just interested in the commercialization of his art in order to make money from lower-income art lovers, rather than doing it so they could express themselves creatively through their wardrobe?