Commercialization of Art vs. Appreciation of Art

Held at the Central Harbourfront from March 21-25, Art Central 2017 has brought around an artistic current throughout the Hong Kong Art Week. Showcasing paintings, digital artworks, sculptures, and installations of a diverse range of medium, the exhibition has attracted visitors from all around.

With #artcentralhk being hashtagged over 9,200 times on Instagram, the event has surely spread its way through social media. In the mean time, the popularity of cultural events, including art exhibitions like Art Central and Art Basel, broadway musicals, handmade DIY flea markets, A cappella singing performances, and many more, has also been actively growing in recent years. In one of the world’s most economically developed cities like Hong Kong, art and culture have been inevitably commercialized, gradually losing their core values and artistic nature. Hence, white-collar workers taking their time off work to go to Art Central seems to be a hopeful twist towards regaining the importance of art. But have these visitors really come to appreciation of art?

Scrolling down the feed with the hashtag #artcentralhk, it is hard not to notice selfies. Selfies of the visitors themselves with the artwork, and non-candid pictures of them posing in front of the artworks (sometimes even imitating the subject of the artwork), appear so much on social media it has almost become a trend. This trend of seeing an art exhibition through the lens instead of the eyes can be attributed to two things: the way art exhibitions are perceived in Hong Kong; and how people establish their desired image via social media.

2017 ART CENTRAL #artday #artcentral #artlover #art #inspiration #selfie #reflection #hkig

A post shared by Faye Tsui (@fayefayetsui) on

Made a few friends in HK

A post shared by Lev Pogosyan (@charliebrowniest) on

Questioning whether the subject of these social media posts is the artwork or the visitor himself/herself, the art exhibitions seem to have become the background or context for these ‘human and artwork’ report of the event. And undoubtedly, posing in accordance to the artwork, such as imitating the portraits, pretending to be interacting with the sculptures, etc., reminds us of the scene found in amusement parks. When an art exhibition becomes an attraction spot, the ‘omg you are so artsy’ comments appear to be what these social media posts are fishing for.

Of course, the phenomenon cannot be generalized as it only applies to a certain portion of the visitor population. However, it has certainly raised a question of whether we are using art to establish our own identity, in other words commercializing art on our behalf. Although the art and culture sector of our society has been improving and developing into a more ideal outlook, the commercialization of art is till the key issue Hong Kong has to identify and take into account, before art can be appreciated by its nature and value. Also, the controversy lies between whether commercialization and appreciation of art can coexist, and if so, how could they balance each other out.

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