Cornel West and the Future of Art

I’ve got a new article up at the Huffington Post on the future of art – here’s an excerpt:

Cornel West fired off an interesting tweet this week: “The challenge artists face today is whether to be an underground, unheard genius, or to dilute their art for the marketplace.” In less than 140 characters West placed his finger on one of the more important questions of our time: Can we escape the commodification of everything? Is there a point at which art becomes so corrupted that the truly profound will only reach us from our own neighborhood — the underground? West is a powerful iconoclast. His knack for exposing how our social ecosystem impacts the most vulnerable segments of society has won him a loyal following, and many vocal detractors. In this particular case his perceptive bead was drawn upon one of the most important figures in any culture: the artist.

The moment it is marketed, every work of art dies a little bit. This raises a bevy of perplexing questions for the artist. Does marketing corrupt the entire creative process? What if art doesn’t die, it just changes? If it changes, is it ruined? Is it still art? Or does it become categorically different like a product or widget?

One thing is for sure: The evaluation and appreciation of art seems to have fully evolved — perhaps devolved — into pure commerce. Most of what we describe as “art” now behaves more like a commercial enterprise than an evocative force. Even indie-art is not impervious to the forces of commercial success.

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