Art as a medium is finally catching up with music and books

by Vanja Przulj October 17, 2019

It's in the water by Bianca Green

It's in the water by Bianca Green

Humans have been making art for thousands of years. In fact art predates writing by nearly 27,000 years. Those early artworks included cave paintings and megalithic structures. 

Yet in terms of mass adoption, for decades art has lagged behind other media such as music and books. But this is finally changing.  

Art’s stuffy image

Historically art has been perceived as a stuffy, misunderstood medium which you could only see in a gallery, or only own by having the right connections (and bags of money).  

Art Museum by Lerson

Art Museum by Lerson

This confused perception of art and its lack of accessibility haven’t helped its cause. “What is art? And why does it cost so much?” - are questions people frequently ask in trying to comprehend it. 

Think about this for a moment, you’d never hear anyone question what music or books are. Yet art has this constant existential questioning. 

This confusion, along with cost and lack of accessibility are primary reasons why art hasn’t been able to garner the same kind of mass scale as music and books...until now.

So what’s changed?

Well first the internet and humanity’s exposure to more imagery. Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, Giphy, Houzz - I could go on. Even how we communicate is increasingly visual 🤪. 

But this on its own is not enough. Something else has also changed, and that is the format. To explain what I mean, we need to go back to the 1950s and the emergence of pop music as an analogy to what is happening to art today.

Pop music in the 1950s

Music, like art, has been around for thousands of years. But it only started getting mass commercial adoption in the 1950s. Sure people listened to music before this. In fact the first million selling record came in 1902 (it was 'Vesti la giubba' from Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, sung by the Italian opera singer Enrico Caruso). 

But after the 1950s the scale at which music was consumed reached unprecedented highs.

Fab Four by Ale Giorgini

Fab Four by Ale Giorgini

Two things allowed music to reach mass scale. The first was access and distribution. Initially radio, then TV, record players, tapes etc but distribution alone wasn’t enough.

Something else had to change, and that was the song format itself. Songs went from being as long as the composer wanted them to be, to a very neatly packaged 3 minutes, featuring a defined structure and catchy lyrics.

This format change allowed Pop Music to emerge, a more palatable, user friendly form of music that resonated with millions of people around the globe like never before. 

Without this format change (and without mass media distribution), music would never have become the commercial juggernaut it is today.

Art’s Pop Moment

For years art was the domain of art lovers and hobbyists, but not the general public. Just like pop music it needed a format change to reach mainstream popularity. 

For art this change in format has been led by artists adopting digital techniques in their work, meaning they can produce pretty, pixel perfect art that is much more palatable to the general public. 

Many artists today use digital in at least some part of their creative process. For example they may start off illustrating by hand, but then finish colouring digitally, allowing them flexibility to experiment. Compare this to a traditional painting that is much more difficult to tinker with once the paint is on the canvas. 

It also allows them to be more commercially savvy, creating multiple versions of a work depending on the target market. 

Add to that improvements in digital printing, allowing artists to create affordable reproductions of their work (often on demand), and you have art made for the masses.

Interestingly, the “art world” has historically looked down on reproduction prints and even suppressed them as a medium, claiming “it’s not real art”. But is an e-book still a real book? Surely the subject matter, not the format matters. Don’t get me wrong, a painting in its original form, with visibly rich brush strokes is better than the same version printed, but if you don’t have access to the original (usually only one exists), that doesn’t mean you should be denied access to it. I still prefer physical books over Kindle, but I also prefer streaming music to vinyl 🤷🏻‍♂️.

The art world is gradually coming round and prints are finally getting the recognition they deserve. They have no choice, the market is driving this. 

 Google trends report for one of our keywords

But more importantly artists are realising they can get a lot more out of a single artwork by releasing prints to go alongside the original work. It just makes sense. And prints are a beautiful medium in their own right. 

Artists have a choice of different paper types, with varying hues and textures that add personality to a work. Not to mention different printing techniques, ranging from screenprinting to digital, such as riso (particularly popular with indie magazines) and giclee which is what we use for our prints.

Prints are becoming the art medium of choice for the general public. 

What this all ultimately means

One could be cynical when talking about the commercialisation of art. But I believe it is a good thing. More people have access to something that they didn’t previously. Historically, the democratisation of anything has rarely been a bad thing. 

Ultimately though it means more awareness of art and more opportunities for artists as a result. 

Further, the more time I spend working on arthaus, the more I come to appreciate the importance of aesthetics in all aspects of life (I could write a whole blog post on this). Art is a fantastic way to improve the aesthetics of our home and work environments. And today anyone can do this at a budget that suits them, thanks to affordable prints. 

Closing Thoughts

I love looking back at history to understand what is going on in the present, and where the future might be heading to. Finding out how pop music came to be while researching this blog has given me some fascinating insights into what is going with art today and where it might be going.

The fact that the explosion of music consumption can be traced back in part to a change in song format in the 1950s is not surprising, given that human beings need things packaged in a way that is easier to digest, before mass adoption can take place. 

Today, art is in the process of getting mass scale for the first time in its history. It is gradually shedding its stuffy, elitist image, and rightfully becoming something that can be enjoyed by everyone. 

For example, many of our customers aren’t art lovers per se, but that’s the point - you don’t have to be an art lover to enjoy one of our prints just like you don’t have to be a hardcore music lover to enjoy a quality pop song. That’s the difference, what art is, is not being dictated by a small number of galleries and auction houses any more, it is finally being reclaimed by the people.

Vanja Przulj
Vanja Przulj

Founder of arthaus, bootstrapping a b2c art marketplace.


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Size Guide
Size
Paper Size

A

20x25cm (8"x10")

B

28x35cm (11"x14")

C

30x40cm (12"x16")

D

40x50cm (16"x20")

E

50x70cm (20"x28")

F

70x100cm (28"x40")

Size
Paper Size

A

20x20cm (8"x8")

B

25x25cm (10"x10")

C

30x30cm (12"x12")

D

40x40cm (16"x16")

E

50x50cm (20"x20")

F

70x70cm (28"x28")

Please note

All sizes are paper sizes (this includes our measurements for framed prints)

Minimum borders/matting (where chosen) of 1" - 2.5" (2.5cm - 6.25cm) will be added around images and will vary depending on the appropriate aspect ratio/paper size. Images are centered and 'padded' for non-standard sized images (no border will be added to Full Bleed prints). Please refer to the product images for an idea of how the art will look with the border/matting for each size.

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