Art History, Contemporary Art and Economy


Art History knowledge is not requisite when you are buying art out of love or passion, though it becomes indispensable when your ‘art- buying’ turns in to a passion investment. The knowledge of past visual representations, past cultures, prevailing art forms, techniques, subjects in different eras helps us to develop an eye for quality while buying contemporary art. We are juxtaposing art history here with Contemporary Art and presenting in ‘bits and pieces’ for simplification.

Art history if studied in comparison and contextualizing with modern times help indeed to connect with contemporary art of today and help website users to explore and decide themselves what they want out of loads of ‘Art’ hurled at them, crammed in their mailboxes through clever marketing contrivance disguised as capsules of white lies!

What is art and aesthetic experience?

The term ‘art’ has wider connotations but here for simplicity we refer ‘art’ as the artist’s creative output which has an inherent ­aesthetic value, beauty associated with it; apart from aesthetic value, artworks have financial value, historical value, sentimental value. The combination of all above determines the worldly ‘Price’ of the artwork.  And yes, ‘artworks’ have its own intrinsic ‘value’ as well, which deals with the presence and absence of light apart from six other elements of visual art – Line, Colour, Form, Space, Texture, and Balance!

The aesthetic value determines the kind of response artwork draws from the viewers; the artwork may generate pleasure through its beauty created by the dexterous use of visual art elements that make the artwork look elegant, graceful, and harmonious and may connect the viewer to its aura. At the other hand, the artwork may also create a feeling of displeasure, discomfort or disgust among the viewers if the depiction of the objects in the artwork produces an ugly spectacle. However, in both the ways, pleasure or discomfort, positive aesthetics or negative, the aesthetic value is inherent in both kinds of artworks and in both the cases it is equally admired as one of the parameters to determine its monetary value.  For example, British master artist Francis Bacon’s gory faces in his works might make us uneasy and create discomfort whereas Atul Dodiya, one of the highly respected Indian master artist’s works filled with humour makes us laugh! Both are master artists in their own ways but their works draw different responses from the viewers.


(Artwork images of Atul Dodiya, Francis Bacon, and Prabhakar Kolte used only for illustration purpose)

Here we have taken confined view of aesthetics accepted in fine arts and everyday life just to highlight the different kinds of aesthetic experiences artworks produce, though philosophically aesthetics have far more diverse connotations, which are beyond the scope and purpose of this article.  In short, quality and spirit of fine arts lay in its aesthetic quality and not only in outer quality or finishing of the artwork; applied arts are separated from fine arts on this thin line; fine arts are correlated purely with the aesthetic value whereas ‘commercial art’ to the utilitarian value. In the complex aesthetic value system, if utilitarian value assumes significance over aesthetic value, it is treated as an affront to the fine art’s aesthetic character, though these dogmatic theories have now become more accommodative towards all kinds of arts and aesthetic experiences.

As mentioned earlier, art history knowledge helps refine our judgemental process on what is good art apart from loads of art produced today. The most important aspect of art historical knowledge is its application in evaluating the experimental level of the contemporary art! Now, what is Contemporary Art?