Having and Making Art are Acts of Political & Cultural Power – Why Art Matters (Part 1)

by laraleslieyoung

I am constantly asked why art and artists matter.  Over the years, I have struggled to answer that question because there are so many possible answers.  Over the next few weeks, I will post reasons why art is important.  I hope they reach people who are looking for such answers.

Reason 1:

Having and making art are acts of power.  I’m not talking about the power of “self expression” or “meaning”.  I’m talking about real political and cultural power. Consider the following questions and images:

Why is it common in war to destroy or steal art belonging to the other side? Why is it so demoralizing to the people of nations at war to have their art taken away from them?

This stolen pastel drawing by Degas is still missing after World War II.

This stolen pastel drawing by Degas is still missing after World War II.

Why do oppressive governments limit or destroy artists, existing artworks and the creation of new art? Why do oppressive governments force artists to create only works conforming to the government’s agenda? Example: Zhao Zhao in China

Controversial artwork by the Chinese artist, Zhao Zhao.

Controversial artwork by the Chinese artist, Zhao Zhao.

Why are wartime propaganda images famously and undeniably powerful in rallying people around a cause?  Why is wartime propaganda still used as a unifying/motivating tactic today?

English World War I propaganda poster from 1915 encouraging conformity in becoming part of the war machine.

English World War I propaganda poster from 1915 encouraging conformity in becoming part of the war machine.

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