Grace Wakeling ’21
Several artists in recent years have taken up the act of protesting commercialism and especially the commercialization of art. Of course, this is a topic that hits home for many artists. Because of the extreme rise in commercialization over the last twenty or so years, many artists have been ran out of business and many people do not even attempt to make great art simply because a machine could inevitably do it better, faster, and much much more. This is not the case for all artists, however, because many other artists have capitalized on the commercialization of their own artwork and really used it to their advantage. Unfortunately, even with the support of a few artists, the idea of commercialism is highly protested by the art world.
Yayoi Kusama, a Japanese artist who moved to New York city in 1958, famously produced the Narcissus Garden in 1966. Narcissus Garden was an exhibit that contained 1,500 silver plastic balls. This mass production involved in her work immediately directs viewers attention to ideas of commercialism, however, many people misinterpreted this piece as a tool for self promotion. Kusama dressed herself in a gold kimono and walked around the exhibit selling miniature versions of her silver balls to guests as she pretended to be an outside viewer. This further employed the protest of commercialism that Kusama was aiming for.
Secondly, Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds function in a similar manner in order to protest the use of commercialization by using commercialization. He capitalized on the term “Made in China” that is seen on just about every other item you would find in a typical retail store. His exhibit includes 100 million hand crafted porcelain sunflower seeds made by over 1,600 people. These seeds are collected into a giant rectangular hole in the floor so that viewers can see the seeds at their foot level. Ai Weiwei utilizes a sense of uniformity to expand on the general theme of consumption and commercialization in the world of art.
Both of these artists worked alongside commercialization despite their outright protest of it. In doing so, they were able to give viewers a firsthand experience of the impersonal aspect that enters an exhibit as soon as commercialization is involved.
Photo Credit: https://smarthistory.org/