January 14, 2011

The Most Popular Art in the World

        You may have seen something about this study before, but if not it's good for a laugh - and a little food for thought.  The idea is that people in 15 countries were polled on what they liked best in art (specifically paintings.  Print-making isn't even in the conversation.)  When the results were tallied, the two artists who came up with the polls, Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid, used the information to create what ought to be the ideal piece of art - and the least likeable piece of art - for each country.  You can see an introduction to the project here, with links to the results for each country.
         Predictably, making a painting to the specifications of a poll does not lead to high quality art.  Perhaps also predictably, the art beloved of the glossy Art Establishment magazines is often as far from popular as it can be, and I have to wonder why…  Why do artists and art critics concentrate so hard on the things most people don't like?  To prove how unlike the uncultured rabble we cogniscenti are?  To show how original we're being?  How edgy?  On the other hand, the study also found that the more educated people are about art, the more they view art, and the more they go to museums, then the more open their opinions are and the more willing they are to enjoy a wide range of art - including that unpopular highbrow art.  So that begs the question of why so many people don't take enough interest in art to broaden their views.  Have they already decided that they won't like any of it?  That it's irrelevant?  I confess I find it hard to imagine not being interested in and curious about art.
         It's also interesting to see how similar taste is across so many different countries (mostly Europe, but not entirely)… and then there's the Netherlands.  I can already hear the comments about legal drug use there.
        Naturally I had to apply the study's data by measuring the popularity potential of my block prints.  Here's how I score according to preferences in the United States:
This ought to be one of my most popular pieces - an outdoor scene
with a group of people in a leisure activity, plus it's a larger size,
it isn't black, and it's got animals both wild and domestic...
  Colors - bad.  Black and white would be a popular color combo for only a sliver of the population.
  Modern vs traditional - good, I think.  Most people prefer traditional, so I guess that would be me.  On the other hand…
  Older vs newer pieces - bad.  Most people prefer antiques.
  "Type of art" (by which they mean country of origin) - good.  Luckily we seem to apply our "made in the USA" principles to our art preferences.
  Wild or domestic animals - okay.  I've got them both, so I'm covered.  50% said they prefer wild animals, though, which is contrary to my own Cat Art observations.
  Outdoor or indoor scenes - bad?  I've got a few of each, but don't have a lot of scenes of either.  Fully 88% of folks said they prefer outdoor scenes, though, so I know what I have to work on next!
  Type of outdoor scenes - bad.  Apparently I really need to get busy on scenes of lakes, rivers, and oceans.
  Preferred season - bad.  Fall is the most popular, followed by spring.  Clearly I wasted my time on my recent winter scene, which is set to appeal to only 15% of the population.  At least it has a river!
  Type of indoor scenes - not so great.  People want people.  On the other hand…
  Type of people - not so bad.  Children are the most popular by a small margin.  Most folks don't care.  For maximum popularity I should specifically be doing groups of fully clothed people at leisure.
  And finally, size of art - very, very bad.  I need to get much bigger… the size of a dishwasher, to be specific.  By contrast, the size of a magazine, which is pretty much exactly what I mostly do, is the least popular art size of all!

[Pictures:  USA Most Wanted Painting, by Vitaly Komar and Alex Melamid (I can't find a date);
Tree of Life, rubber block print by AEGN, 2005;
New-Fallen Snow, rubber block print by AEGN, 2010.]


Ann said...

Are those deer really walking on water or is it my lousy eyesight?

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Hello, Annie!
I think they're just wading in the shallows... But who knows - perhaps deer who can walk on water would rate highly in the polls!

Pax said...

If you want to appeal to the masses, go Thomas Kincaid. If you are hung up on trying to crack the Inner Circle of Cognoscenti, then get an agent, and get a gimmick. If, on the other hand, you want to do what interests, challenges, and amuses you, do what you like, and pay little attention to what polls seem to indicate. As for me, I happen to like your block prints the way they are now.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Thanks! =D