Has Art Become Too Popular?


Friday, August 15, 2014

An 'Art Everywhere' billboard in Times Square An Art Everywhere billboard in Times Square (Eric Thayer/Getty)

All over the country this month, 50,000 billboards and bus shelters and video screens will display images of famous American works of art. The project is called Art Everywhere, a push by an outdoor advertising association and a handful of powerful American museums. You might see Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks" in Times Square, Charles Sheeler’s "Classic Landscape" on a highway billboard, or Grant Wood's "American Gothic" on a newsstand. The organizers say they hope the sightings will get more people to visit museums.

But do these already iconic artworks need more attention? Peter Schjeldahl, art critic for The New Yorker, wrote this week that overcrowding at some major museums has become so bad that it has made it impossible to engage with the art. “Art has taken on this strange glamor,” he tells Kurt Andersen. “The love of it has become quantified by dollars in the market and fannies through the door of museums.”

To choose the works featured in Art Everywhere, 170,000 people voted online from among 100 artworks selected by the participating museums. "Nighthawks" won the top spot. Art Everywhere is also holding a social media contest in which people post selfies in front of the displays. Schjeldahl considers the initiative “sentimental and pious,” based on a nebulous idea of that “art is good for you. No it isn’t!” Real art, he thinks, doesn’t need an ad campaign.

Has art become too popular for its own good? Tell us in a comment.

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Peter Schjeldahl

Produced by:

Sruthi Pinnamaneni

Comments [14]

Valetta from Thornton, PA

For millions of Americans, art would not exist at all if they didn't see it in a commercial way, and so I think Billboards are an excellent idea.

Aug. 24 2014 02:27 PM

Location is everything. Art is only Art if you think it is. I see this every day with my farm photos I have available. They're used for advertisement, private collections, museums, mags, calendars. And if you what to consider them Art, they're Art. That's the beauty of all folks. J

Aug. 24 2014 01:34 PM
Doc C from waterbury,ct

The mass love of art has arisen to replace religion as a means of fulfilling our need to transcend and connect in our secular age. Seth Godin in Linchpin defines art as a personal gift freely given that changes the receiver. Art should absolutely permeate our culture.

Shame on anyone who thinks any single work of art is too good for mass exposure. Did Hopper paint for a single critic or a single owner? Who does Schjeldahl think pays tax money to support all those museums?

Aug. 19 2014 09:44 AM
maria keane from delaware

Exposure to art can inspire and perhaps stimulate a trip to a nearby museum.

Aug. 19 2014 09:28 AM
Fred from Northwest New Jersey

I recently visited friends in Philly who said that they had not visited a local museum in quite some time due to their schedules. The same can be said for many New Yorkers. I say "Bravo" for Art Everywhere. Perhaps some of these "iconic" works of art do need more exposure. And if museums weren't crowded, then boards that run them would bemoan that fact that they had no funds to maintain these great institutions. And ponder this: great art is only iconic to someone who has seen it and accepts it as such.

Aug. 18 2014 01:51 PM
Shepsl from Queens, NY

Having had the experience of trying to spend some quality time in front of a piece of art, without having to get out of the way of hordes of people or having to wait for a chance to get a decent view -- well, need I say more. And those hordes are just moving through, with or without the recorded narratives. I see very few people actually stopping to examine the work.

That also explains the excessive number of works in exhibits. For thoughtful visitors, there are far too many works to see without spending hours and exhausting oneself. But for the speedwatchers, well, it's just another incoming-generating attraction, so it has to be impressive in size to get them.

Yes, it's just like speed dating. It reminds me of a humorous feature from years ago on a public radio station called "Great Square Inches in Art". Might as well be.

Aug. 18 2014 11:36 AM
Witold Riedel from New York

Just a few years ago I took series of photographs of the "Mona Lisa Visitors" at the Louvre. The experience was much less crowded and things looked outright calm compared to what can happen in front of famous art today. But things were pretty clear then too: Most visitors did not actually come to study the art. They were there to see themselves in the context of culture, and maybe also a milestone of culture. Taking selfies was maybe not as easy as today, but it was certainly done. And sharing was not as fast either, but it was definitely one of the goals of the people I saw.
Many of us strive to be seen in the context of something larger than ourselves. And many of us also want to be recognized for that connection. Art is obviously excellent for that, as it is, in many cases, something designed to outlast us. Something that was sent to us from the past, by someone who knew that the work would outlast them.
Hmm... I guess comments on the Studio360.org website are also a bit like a selfie in front of a piece of art. Well, maybe on a different scale. ; )

Aug. 18 2014 08:21 AM
Marilyn from Greenwich Village


Aug. 18 2014 08:08 AM
Irene from Maplewood

Totally agree..just how snobby can one man get?

Art is and should be everywhere..it is not the domain of one person or entity but something emanating from each and every person to be seen and reacted to by each and every person!


Aug. 18 2014 08:00 AM
sanda aronson from NYC

On answering the question about the billboards and art everywhere:
Why not show the art of the many thousands of us who are not famous, instead of the work of the famous dead
artists, mostly male. This would give those of us who are older, women and others who have not been accepted into the mainstream of galleries lots of showing space and inspire people in America, and tourists, in the knowledge that art is alive and well in the U.S.A.? Your guest's point about commercialism of art is on point. Sanda Aronson

Aug. 17 2014 02:22 PM
SOPHIE from Tucson, AZ

Want to see "Art for the Thinking Man/Woman", take a look at "Gary Aagaard", website. Amazing!!!!

Aug. 16 2014 07:17 PM
Lynn Trimble from Arizona

When every local art gallery and lesser known museum is filled every day with art lovers, and citizens flock to installations of public art, I'll be thrilled to say that art may finally have the popularity and appreciation it deserves.

Aug. 16 2014 04:24 PM
eliauw from San Francisco

Who cares what one self-absorbed art snob thinks? The New Yorker doesn’t need to give troll Peter Schjeldahl, and his ilk, an ad campaign.

50,000 billboards and bus shelters and video screens displaying images of famous American works of art is a terrific idea! Thank you, Art Everywhere!

Aug. 15 2014 05:44 PM
Judy Metro from Washington, DC

It's hilarious that the art critic of the NEW YORKER should decry the replacement of Juicy Couture ads with iconic American art on the billboards of Times Square. Art is not good for us, soft porn is? Art on public display-- the gateway to further overcrowding of museums. Give us a break!

Aug. 15 2014 12:32 PM

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