This piece is called "Between A Cabbage And A Basketball", by Jan Nelson and is included in an exhibition called "Every Brilliant Eye - Australian Art Of The 1990's", currently being held at Melbourne's Federation Square. Nelson was one of my lecturers at RMIT University when I was studying Fine Art and trying to major in painting during the 90's. Do you perceive a problem?
In a recent article called "Art For Art's Sake", author Alain De Botton argues that during the 19th Century the "usefulness" of art was called into question for the first time due to industrialization and scientific discovery. 'Those who wished to attack art and its values asked what it really ever achieved, and therefore whether it still deserved the respect it had traditionally enjoyed'.
In response, the artistic community became brittle and defensive and argued that art was too lofty and important to be merely useful. Art became a cult of "inutility" best loved and accomplished when devoid of purpose. It was a deeply flawed, even tragic misunderstanding of what art can do for us and it survives to this very day.
To lead good lives, we not only need electricity, money and telecommunications, we also need consolation for our griefs, guidance towards wisdom, relief from anxiety and a path to hope and broader horizons. Art can provide these things. Art is a very practical tool that can help us live and die well. "Only under a desperately narrow vision of usefulness could art ever be dismissed as useless."
I see the artistic community committing self-sabotage with this doctrine of art for art's sake in relation to gaining wider acceptance in the broader community and gaining additional funding from government. "The phrase ‘art for art’s sake’ was born to defend art from unfair attack, but it ended up fatefully weakening it, blinding us to its real role in society."