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The art of marketing

17 December 2010

In Mexico, the distinction between “high” and “popular” art is not as clear-cut as in the northern countries.  There is a story that has Diego Rivera, David Álvaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco sitting at an outdoor café arguing about the role of art, and artists, in Mexico.  Rivera and Siqueiros, as good Marxists, holding forth on the need of the artist to teach the masses.  Orozco, ever the sceptic, found his answer when a street vendor walked by selling the cheap home-made clay pots :   Orozco, whose pedantic style was more in the nature of showing and not telling, bought a few objets de hogar for his comrades, driving home the lesson by saying “In Mexico, it is the masses who teach the artists.”

Where is the line between “art” and everyday experience anyway?  Because the water pitcher sits on display on a shelf, is it more “artistic” than the serving dishes in my kitchen cabinet?   the water pitcher (at left) a work of art because it sits on a bookshelf, and the serving pots not art, because they sit in my kitchen cabinet?  I tend not to think of serving dishes as “popular art” but as something to mash potatoes in.  But then, is there any reason mashing potatoes, or watering the plants shouldn’t also be an aesthetic experience, and not just a chore?

Rivera and Siqueiros weren’t wrong.  The Revolution didn’t ONLY make the common experience, and the masses the subject of fine arts, but — perhaps more lastingly — it erased the artificial boundaries between the “high art” of the elites, and the common art of the masses.  To be a “traditional” Mexican today is to appreciate both the popular arts that grace our kitchens, and the “fine art” of  stocking our larders.

As part of the Festival Internacional de las Artes de Lerdo (FIAL), soprano Celia Gómez , mezzo-soprano Melisa Reuter, tenor Dante Alcalá and baritone Ricardo López rescued opera from the confines of the high-ticket auditoriums, and presented it (along with tasty tomatoes, grapes and other staples) to shoppers at the mercado Donato Guerra in Ciudad Lerdo (Durango) last Sunday morning. The full video, and accompanying news story is in El Siglo de Torreón.

One Comment leave one →
  1. kwallek permalink
    17 December 2010 1:00 pm

    I bought 4-5 of the clay cooking trays they sell in Antigua’s market as art for my vacation house-simple stuff but it looked like art to me. Too soft to make the trip home, a suitcase full of gravel landed in Cleveland.

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