Old Navy created the T-shirts "Young Aspiring Artist", but with the word "artist" crossed out, and substituted with other words such as "astronaut" and "president". The T-shirts triggered controversy and social media outcry.
Old Navy created the T-shirts "Young Aspiring Artist", but with the word "artist" crossed out, and substituted with other words such as "astronaut" and "president". The T-shirts triggered controversy and social media outcry. People were complaining about the shirt shamming artists as a legitimate career choice. Old Navy apologized for the T-shirts and pulled them from its stores and issued a statement that it did not try to offend anyone on purpose. In my opinion the Old Navy did not offend anybody. The T-shirt merely reflected the current affairs of the art and the place of an artist in our contemporary times. I call the current situation "Hyperinflation of Arts".
Hyperinflation in economy often occurs when there is a large increase in the money supply not supported by the product growth, resulting in an imbalance in the supply and demand for the money. Left unchecked this causes currency to lose its value. Rapid devaluation of the currency, and with it, hyperinflation, is devastating for the economy and it is very painful for the society.
"Hyperinflation of Arts" started with Conceptual Art movement in the mid-1960. The movement completely rejected standard ideas and aesthetics of art. Many works of conceptual art, often called installations could be created by anyone. In the article "Paragraphs on Conceptual Art" Sol LeWill explains: "In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art."
In music around the same time, the avant-garde movement developed. That movement in music challenged and critiqued existing aesthetic conventions, rejected existing status quo, and introduce new and unique elements to provoke or annoy the audience. Music, however, recovered from the influence of avant-garde movement, and moved on. Maybe because you can reject existing status quo all you want, but at the end of the day, you won't be able to play any music without music elements such as rhythm, harmony, dynamics, etc., or music theory. Yes, you will be able to go on stage and cut the piano in half to shock and annoy your audience, and you can declare that it was a music performance. Next time however, your audience is not going to show up to see it again, because it was interesting once (maybe).
Music moved on, and avant-garde movement is just a movement in music history, however art never recovered from the conceptual art. Art is still under strong influence even now in the twenty first-century. We are still suffering from the belief that idea suffices as a work of art, and that concerns such as aesthetics, expression, skills are nothing, but the limitation to the boundaries of art. The boundaries were pushed very hard and are still being pushed. Institution such as museums and art galleries, and educational institutions are still forcing conceptual art as a main stream art, and any other styles of art suffered devaluation.
The idea that you don't need any skills, or education, or talent, or anything else to become an artist was pretty much accepted. This notion opened the door for anybody who wanted to enter the art scene and declare themselves the artists. I personally witnessed ridiculous situation when someone without any degree was teaching in a major university. The university hired someone without any degree to teach the students who were actually pursuing the art degrees.
I'm sure everybody is familiar with a tale by Hans Christian Andersen "The Emperor's New Clothes", about tailors who promise an emperor a new clothes that is invisible to those who are unqualified for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. When the Emperor paraded before his subjects in his "new clothes", no one dared to say that they don't see any clothes and the emperor is parading naked, until a child cried out, "But he is naked!"
I cannot help but think of the Andersen's tale when I think about the art affairs in our contemporary times. The mainstream institutions still strongly insist that "Emperor" is wearing expensive and sophisticated clothes and those who are unable to see, are unqualified stupid and incompetent. I personally see that "Emperor" is naked, Old Navy sees it, so does everybody else. Conceptual art like avant-garde music was shocking, and appeared fresh in sixties, seventies, eighties... , but in our contemporary time it cannot pass as fresh, but quite opposite. It stinks...
Because there are no boundaries to entry, the art scene is flooded with endless number of people who aspire to be the artists, but don't want to spend a lot of effort, time or money to produce the quality artwork. The product they produce is the product of no skill, and represents rejection of standard ideas and aesthetics of art by the conceptual art movement. Such products presents very little value, therefore the value of art has been deluded, and in return the place of an artist in the modern society slowly disappears. Like in economy, rapid devaluation of the currency, and with it, hyperinflation, is devastating for the economy and it is very painful for the society. Rapid devaluation of contemporary art is devastating for art, and painful for the society.