The view examined here is one that states that only the rich are able to appreciate the arts. Is this true or false? It depends on our definition of ‘the arts’ Furthermore, who are we referring to when we speak of the rich? It is impossible to define the arts. Is a statue of Madonna covered with elephant dung considered part of the “arts”? Some could consider “Water lilies” by Monet a work of magnificent art, but others would consider it a mediocre painting, nothing more.
However, it is the general opinion that the arts are composed of certain key aspects: namely, music, dance, painting, sculpture, and other areas. But something must be said of the arts; whichever form it takes, art transcends boundaries: social boundaries. What I mean is that everybody is able to appreciate art, but in different forms. For example, a person from the middle-to-upper classes might view the musical “Miss Saigon” as a great work of art; however, someone of a lower socioeconomic class unacquainted with musicals might not be able to appreciate it, preferring to listen to folk songs which the middle and high class citizen may not be able to appreciate. Hence, I disagree with the above-mentioned view that only the rich can appreciate the arts.
Socially, people across all social classes are able to appreciate the arts simply because the arts appeal to different people in different forms. The asrt continues to sustain themselves because they satisfy the basic human need to express oneself – and in this expression, the arts appeal to the observer or force the observer to examine himself or the world around him. Furthermore, everybody views a work of art in a different light. Critics are divided about Rembrandt’s last self-portrait, “Self-portrait with two circles”. Does it display him in the weakness of his age, or does it show him seeing the truth of the world around him, stripped of its facade? Nobody can say for sure. Thus, it is this nature of art which leads to everybody being able to appreciate it: with the important qualification that they do so from different viewpoints, through different forms. Social class and wealth have no bearing on this.
When we speak of the “rich”, we are not merely speaking about people with wealth: we are speaking of an entire social class. Let us examine the rich: both in the economic and social sense, as to why it is untrue that only they are able to appreciate the arts. Economically speaking, it is conventional logic that the 18th century French aristocrat was able to take the time off his work and go into art galleries because he could afford to take leave from work, and could afford to pay the entrance fee into the gallery. On the other hand, the common peasant had to toil from morning to night, seven days a week, just to feed himself. Hence, he could hardly afford to appreciate the arts, in the monetary sense. However, the fault with this seemingly logical line of thought is that while the peasant could not afford to enjoy the same art forms of the noble, he could and did enjoy other art forms: folk songs, story telling, and the like. It would be biased to assume that the common peasant was culturally illiterate, simply because of his monetary status. As set out before,art can take any shape and form; lack of money need not be a barrier.
It is for this very reason that appreciation of the arts is not limited to the rich in the social sense. Going back to the above example, even if the peasant could afford to take a day off and go to the art gallery (which he probably wouldn’t, but for example’s sake), he would be rejected at the door simply because he was of a lower social class. His clothes, his manner, his accent, his very demeanor – these would all be out of sync with the social codes expected by the higher social class. Hence, he would be rejected because of the snobbish mentality of this form of art. There are two ways to look at this. Firstly, as mentioned above, he did not have to solely seek out this avenue of art – there were other forms of art available to him. In this way, appreciation of the arts was not beyond him. But secondly, I disagree with the snob rule that only a particular class may enjoy a particular Art form. It does not always hold true. Some particular instances of art truly transcend boundaries. For example, Vincent Van Gogh has long been regarded as one of the paragons of art. Mixing shades and hue, and the brilliance of colour, a Van Gogh painting can be worth millions of dollars on the art market – definitely a “high class” form of Art. Yet his paintings were never intended for the rich. One of his paintings, “The Potato Eaters”, shows a group of peasants sitting round a table, eating the potatoes their labour has borne. It is definitely an unglamorous painting, its hues being dark and subdued and its mood gloomy. Nobody of the higher class at that time would find it appealing – they had no need to be reminded of the lower class, those beneath them. Yet today, this image of the fruits of true toil appeals to all, as a reminder that life is not life without hard work and its results.
In conclusion, it would be absolutely misleading to say that only the rich can appreciate the arts. Anybody can appreciate art, and art can be seen, heard or sensed under virtually all conditions.