Kovach Imre Barna* and Murray Hunter
Metaphorically, new art trends are like volcanoes. They erupt along the tectonic fault lines of colliding and shifting cultures. No one can predict when an eruption will occur. Nor can the length and magnitude be known until after the event.
Art goes through violent changes when cultures shift, leading to new trends and paradigms, due to the tectonic nature of cultural vista.
Today’s art world is a very well mapped out universe consisting of a few thousand leading galleries, museums, a few hundred influential curators and art fair organizers, writers and critics, wealthy collectors and institutions, and of course, the artists themselves.
The artwork is a USD 64 billion a year industry. It mirrors socio-economic trends and itself has become globalized, with different regions within.
Contemporary art is considered a financial asset class, where the promotion, investment, and protection of this asset has taken on priority within the art industry.
Art has become financialized. Financial institutions and fund managers have joined art collectors in creating their respective portfolios of art. Today’s definition of good art is that it is saleable and the definition of a good artist is that he or she is marketable.
The prices of contemporary art have grown to spectacular heights, where the million dollar range for art pieces is very common, and some artists sell their works for tens of millions dollars.
However, if somebody buys a painting for millions dollars, what they are actually buying is a stretched canvas and paint. The actual material value of a painting is a tiny fraction of the purchase price. The price of the art work is based on and justified by opinions within the art community which give a certain value and importance to the artist as a brand. The artist becomes a brand with a price tag.
Within the art world, stability is an important factor because nobody wants a cultural shift which can suddenly devalue art assets. However such devaluations happen from time to time and affect whole periods of historical art.
The large difference in valuation cannot be justified by artistic quality. Its real cause is the pressure on the existing paradigm for change. Certain periods of arts and their paradigms can “fall out of favour”, where the drop in interest leads to falling prices for that particular category. Consequently, art works from this category which were highly priced in their period of popularity can be bought today at ‘give away’ prices. At the same time artists whose work in some way is compatible with the emerging paradigm change, may see their art receive much greater appreciation. This would result in revaluation, resulting in the acknowledgement of their importance and higher price for their works. For instance academic painters, who are almost completely forgotten today, were well known and popular in the 19th century, where they commanded praise and high prices for their works.
The impressionists were not considered to be serious artist in their time. For example, Manet’s painting caused a scandal at the annual exhibition in Paris. However, today Manet, Monet, Cezanne, Pisarro and other impressionists (and post impressionists) command sky high prices. The once so famous academicians then lost their prestige, where their prices went down. Consequently, there is no real interest in them from collectors, art writers and museums. They wait for the moment of rediscovery if it ever happens.
The authors believe that within the art world today, innovation is carefully contrived to keep the market buoyant to make sure that the ‘stars’ of yesterday are the ‘stars’ of today.
From the beginning of the 20th Century there was a revolt against the academic style, where the concept of art for art prevailed. The modernists added two more concepts, that of creating art from art and art about art.
Today’s contemporary artists don’t really look at nature or reflect upon their inner feelings. Rather, they are much more interested in the global dialogue than taking a look at the inner world.
A new tectonic shift is coming
The familiar images of today’s modernist art works which are art for art, art about art, and art from art creations will soon be seen in a new perspective. A tectonic shift in culture and globalization will stir up art movements based upon traditions, scared philosophies and teachings, with its symbols and colours embedded within cultural themes. Patrimonial art which is embedded within cultural themes of traditional lifestyles and beliefs will collide with contemporary art, the art of global capitalism.
By patrimonial art, we mean contemporary art with the intent and knowledge of transmitting sacred tradition.
However, the two art paradigms are not compatible.
Sacred tribal patrimonial art most often consists of thousands of year old symbols and teachings which provide advice and guidelines for all aspects of life.
Patrimonial art is not art for art. It has a much higher goal of seeking to maintain the heritage of harmony and balance of traditional rite, rituals, and spirituality. Patrimonial art is embedded within nature itself. Patrimonial art has a teaching and healing function and establishes the values of humanistic community.
In contrast, contemporary modernist art is a financial asset class. Its goal is to establish a saleable brand, being the artist’s name, which creates a high valuation based upon a consensus between the players of the art world.
There is also a mythology about contemporary art. The assumption that contemporary art is one of the highest social achievements of people within society. Thereby placing the discipline on a cultural plane that is viewed as something pure and uncorrupted.
Contemporary art is consequently seen as being one of the most valued artefacts of society, being collected in art galleries, museums, and in private collections around the world, unquestionably considered to be at the pinnacle of human prowess.
In such an environment of closely connected curators, critics, gallery owners, artists, and fund managers, value is created and maintained in the interests of small select groups.
In contrast, patrimonial art doesn’t yet have a plane of entry into the art establishment. The deep meanings contained within and the sacredness of patrimonial art may not help in creating financial value. However a patrimonial art work may have deep cultural value within the community, religion or spiritual schools it originates from. Ultimately, this may translate into monetary value as well.
An eruption is coming from within the ranks too. Many contemporary artists are not completely signed up to the modernist paradigm. Many have interest in art outside the bounds of modernism. They often admire sacred patrimonial art influenced by it and resort to embedding the ideas of patrimonial art into their own works.
One example here is Picasso and his fancy of African tribal art.
There are also indicatory trends in the culinary arts and gastronomy which have parallels to the art world. Australia is going through a small renaissance of traditional bush foods and fusion gastronomy, bringing together food influences from different culinary cultures, is now the order of the day within restaurants and food malls all over the world. Traditional herbal remedies are now more popular than ever.
There are many modernist artists now working within Indian, Asian, African, and South American indigenous communities , where local artists are influencing them with intellectual and style inputs within modern art pieces.
A special case which should be followed is Australia. Community artists have transformed sacred ancient patrimonial designs into modern art where gallery valuations went through the roof in recent years.
There were many ‘natural nations’ in existence before colonialism and its child globalism. Many of the natural nations are still here upholding their culture and art traditions which influenced contemporary art. Working within these two paradigms requires contemporary artists to start looking within once again.
This is beginning to affect the appearance of modernism.
A new patrimonial art is emerging with global outreach nurtured by sacredness and cultures of ‘natural nations’, like the indigenous communities in the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Australia. This trend will meet modernism and collide with it.
When these two tectonic plates collide, a process happening now, sacred patrimonial art will break the plate of modernism. Along the break lines a number of eruptions will occur in the form of new patrimonial art centres emerging across the globe.
This will cause a paradigm shift in the art world similar to the one which happened when modernism started.
The result will be a new patrimonial art paradigm that will incorporate the values and sacredness of many cultures that have been unable to express themselves in the globalized community of today. Art in the not too distant future will reflect some of the old traditions of the past and present.
The age of modernism is barely more than 100 years and thus has a minuscule timeframe when compared to patrimonial art. Patrimonial art has been in existence for thousands of years.
When we see modernism reflecting age old patrimonial art, we will come to our senses. We will stop believing that art is for art, art is about art, and art is from art. This will challenge the concept of art as a financial asset, that the best pieces of art are the ones that sell for the most.
Every artist knows deep down that his or her talent and dedication is not for developing financial assets.
The greatest art ever produced by humankind was never produced for sale or profit. Art was not pegged down by its potential of creating value, except for the intrinsic values of perfection, culture and spirituality.
The tectonic shift in the art world and the emergence of new patrimonial art styles across the globe carries with it the potential to make art free once again by unshackling creativity.
Ultimately the reason for making art and owning art will be rethought. The concept of branding and price tags developed by the organized artists of the modern era who have reverted into factory production of their pieces for profit will be challenged.
The new patrimonial art will provide a venue for valuable traditions, spiritual and aesthetic that are quickly disappearing off the face of the earth today due to globalization. By serving the community providing it with its symbols, identity and self-esteem, by making a people’s tradition alive and active again new patrimonial will have a much wider acceptance and more functions than modernist art could ever have.
* Kovach Imre Barna is an independent spiritual teacher, thinker, calligrapher, painter, and sculptor.
Remembering legendary Nigerian drummer Tony Allen
Exactly in August 2009, legendary Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, who created the Afrobeat along with his old bandmate Fela Kuti, and I had our first historical meeting in Paris, France. I had flown in from Shanghai, China, to meet with him for an informal encounter. Despite our heavy working schedules and limited time, the meeting lasted for about two hours. During the discussions, I asked him several questions about his professional musical career and life. In fact, he was extremely passionate and enthusiastic talking with me, and to remember him here are a few excerpts:
When did you begin your musical career and who are your favorite musicians?
My career started at the age of 20. In fact, I was hired by Sir Victor Olaiya to play claves with his highlife band, “the Cool Cats” and was able to fill the drum-set chair when the former Cool Cats drummer left the band. I also played with Agu Norris and the Heatwaves, the Nigerian Messengers and the Melody Makers.
In 1964, I joined Fela’s ‘Koola Lobitos’ and stayed with Fela for 15 years. When I was learning to play I’d check out LPs and magazine tutorials by Gene Krupa, Art Blakey and Max Roach, Guy Warren was also an influence. Of course, I was also a fan of Elvin Jones, Tony Williams and Bernard Purdie.
I was asked to name my dream band to play with, and I chose: Oumou Sangare and Salif Keita on vocals, Bootsy Collins on bass, George Benson on guitar, Wayne Shorter on sax, Joe Zawinul on keys, Don Cherry on trumpet, and with a line-up like that I’d have to be the drummer!
What was the motivation behind your chose profession?
My parents were…not keen. Back then, musicians were more or less thought of as beggars, or worse. But I just put it in front of them. I was an electrical technician, but I wanted to make a change. My mother was never happy about it, but my father, who was an amateur musician, eventually agreed.
How is this profession influencing or shaping your own social life?
It has had a profound effect. Our albums with Afrika 70 either provoked or described a series of increasingly brutal attacks by the Nigerian army and police. Fela and his immediate family bore the brunt of this long and shameful catalogue of assaults, trumped up charges and jailings, and I myself was jailed on one occasion. With Fela it was like being at university, and you don’t run away from education. We learnt so much by not being cowards.
When I left Fela’s band that had a big effect on my life. Lagos was too small for me and Fela. It was a small place, and I wanted room to take off without causing competition, I eventually chose Paris partly because the British immigration people were giving me difficulties, but also because African music was more happening then in Paris than in London, and my record company at the time was in France. It was the only place I felt I could exercise my knowledge. The only place to make a living. Being a musician, the line between work and social life is, often blurred doing what I do for a living is what I do for enjoyment.
There seems to be some truthfulness in your career. Which songs spiritually appeal most to you personally when on stage?
Absolutely, as a musician and an artist you have to be true to yourself. Different songs appeal to me more at different times and under different circumstances, it can depend on who you’re playing with, where you’re playing and how the audience respond to what you’re playing. Playing music is very spiritual but I won’t say that one thing I do is more spiritual than another as I try to invest all in everything that I do.
Of what importance are the messages you convey through your songs to our society, in your interpretation?
Afrobeat has always been about the struggle, then and now. Fela was right about everything, especially the messages in all his songs. Everything he sang about is still happening. Nigeria’s not getting any better. It’s all misadministration and corruption, survival of the fittest. Lagos is a complete mother ****** of a place. These messages we send to the government, they never listen to them. The people wait for an effect, but there’s no effect. These guys do nothing. Afrobeat is rebellious music. We have to keep shouting.
Do you mind talking about your experiences (both positive and negative) in previous European tours?
Laughs! I don’t mind at all but this is a big question that I’m not sure how to answer. The fact is that the good experiences overwhelmingly outweigh the bad, which is why I’m still out on tour at nearly 70 years old. As long as people want to come and see me play, I’ll play.
How do you usually visualize your audience during musical performances?
I am very pleased to have had the chance to play at many festivals abroad. The foreign people know all about social and political upheaval, so even though our cultures and heritage are completely different, they feel the power of Afrobeat and confirm my belief that music is the great healer in the world. It was a long musical trip, there is no way back but well worth it. You just don’t have to return, I have to move forward!
Many people think going into musical world is just to make quick money. What is your reaction to this?
Ha! Most musicians are struggling musicians only a small minority make serious money, musicians all around the world play for the love of it, to express themselves creatively and for the interaction with the audience. A lucky few might make millions but you can’t judge everyone else on that basis, lawyers, accountants, bankers, those guys make the serious money. Also, those motivated by money don’t make as good music, if your inspiration isn’t true, then it shines through in music.
Would you have opted out of stage if you were offered an alternative job? Not all, as I said earlier, I had job which I left in order to be a musician, that wa almost 50 years ago and I am still in it. I think I made the right decision.
If you could have lunch with anyone, real or fictional, alive or dead, who would it be and what is the first thing you would ask him or her?
It’s impossible to pick one single person, there are loved ones that would be great to see one more time, but musically the most obvious person would be Fela Kuti, and I’d ask him if he’s happy with what’s happened to the music that we created together.
What are your goals for the coming years?
I want to keep on doing what I do, improving and doing new things. I’m very happy with my band and our new album, we can do great things together. I’m very fortunate that I get the opportunities to work with all manner of artists doing different and interesting projects, long may it continue.
Music is my mission. I never get satisfied and I’m still learning from others. The musical world is very spiritual, and I don’t think there’s an end to it. The best legacy is your professional work and leaving an indelible mark on the minds of people.
Additional information: Agence France Press (AFP) wrote that Allen was the drummer and musical director of Fela Kuti’s band Africa ‘70 in the 1960s and 1970s. During that time, the pair created afrobeat, combining West African musical styles such as highlife and Fuji music with American imports jazz and funk. Afrobeat went on to become one of the totemic genres of 20th century African music.
Over Allen’s thrilling beat, Fela laid out his revolutionary and pan-African message, which led him to become one of the abiding icons of the struggle for freedom across the continent. Allen and Fela recorded around 40 albums together in Africa ‘70, before parting ways after a mythic 26-year collaboration. Such was the hole that Allen left in his band, Fela needed four drummers to replace him.
Allen taught himself to play drums from the age of 18, drawing inspiration from American jazz greats Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker as well as contemporary African music. He remained hugely influential and beloved by generations of musicians.
British musician and producer Brian Eno has called Allen “perhaps the greatest drummer who ever lived.” Allen was the drummer in the supergroup The Good, the Bad & the Queen, also featuring Blur singer Damon Albarn and The Clash bassist Paul Simonon, which released its second album in 2018. Tony Allen died suddenly at the age of 79 in the Paris suburb Courbevoie, France.
5th Anniversary Celebrations of Establishment of China Cultural Center in Pakistan
April 20th 2020 marks its fifth anniversary celebration of China Cultural Center in Pakistan. On this special day 5 years ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping on a state visit to Pakistan together with Pakistani former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif jointly unveiled China Cultural Center in Pakistan on 5 April 2015 at the Pakistani Prime Minister’s Office in Islamabad.
China Cultural Center in Pakistan officially launched and began its operation Islamabad of Pakistan ever since.
In order to fight the epidemic and convey confidence and determination to overcome the Covid-19, China Cultural Center in Pakistan has launched online celebrations on Facebook. Visiting China Online series of activities include five online photo exhibitions, “Our Silk Road”, “World Cultural Heritage in China”, “The Ancient Silk Road State of Kucha”, “Beautiful China”, “Celebrating in Harmony and Joy – Chinese Spring Festival Photo Exhibition” and documentary series “Beautiful China”, “China Beyond Your Imagination”, and “One Belt One Road – People to People Connectivity”.
The establishment of the China Cultural Center in Pakistan is an important symbol of the further deepening of bilateral relations between China and Pakistan. Center’s aim and objective is to strengthen cultural exchanges and cooperation between China and Pakistan and enhance mutual understanding and friendship between the people of two countries. Since its establishment in Pakistan, China Cultural Center has actively organized various types of cultural activities i.e., cultural performances, visual arts exhibitions, film festivals, film shows, teaching, training, lectures, seminars and other different cultural activities.
China Cultural Center in Pakistan has organized 26 grand exhibitions in the past such as “China-Pakistan Friendship Photo Exhibition”, “Beautiful China Photo Exhibition”, “Belt and Road in My Eyes, A Pakistani Students’ Poster Competition” attracting more than 20,000 visitors. To celebrate Chinese New Year, more than 30 grand cultural performances such as the “70th Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China”, “65th Anniversary of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations Between China and Pakistan”, and “Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival” gala performance for more than 100000 audience. Training workshops such as Chinese Martial Arts, Chinese Culinary Art, and Chinese Paper Cutting attracted more than 3,000 people. China Cultural Center has participated in eighth and ninth Pakistan National Book Festival in Islamabad, Pakistan and displayed Chinese cultural elements by setting up booth attracting Pakistani people from different walks of life. President of Pakistan Dr. Arif Alvi also visited China Cultural Center’s booth and highly praised the friendship between China and Pakistan. These two National Book Festivals attracted more than 500,000 people.
With collaboration of different universities and educational institutions, China Cultural Center also held a series of “Happy Chinese New Year” activities, lectures on “Traditional Chinese Medicine”, “Belt and Road” and Chinese-Western Art Exchange” and other relevant topics to effectively provide interactional exchange between students and teachers of universities. The “China Film Festival and Film Conference” held in August 2019 opened a new chapter in the exchange and cooperation between film industry of China and Pakistan.
China Cultural Center in Pakistan will comprehensively utilize all the humanity resources in the future to showcase Chinese history, culture and stories, promote traditional and contemporary Chinese culture, tourism, intangible culture and will continue to make relentless efforts for a new chapter of China-Pakistan friendship.
China-Pakialstan Dosti Zindabad!
Even during COVID-19, art ‘brings us closer together than ever’
With billions of people either in lockdown or on the front lines battling the COVID-19 pandemic, this first celebration of World Art Day is a timely reminder that “art has the power to unite and connect in times of crisis”, the head of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said on Wednesday.
“Bringing people together, inspiring, soothing and sharing: these are the powers of art, the importance of which has been made emphatically obvious during the COVID-19 pandemic”, Audrey Azoulay said in her message.
Throughout self-isolation, art has nonetheless been flourishing. Pointing to peformers tapping into their creativity to relay health guidelines and share messages of hope – as well as neighbours singing to each other on balconies, and concerts online – Ms. Azoulay maintained that creativity abounds.
And the Mona Lisa – Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous masterpiece, the anniversary of whose birth, on 15 April, has been chosen for the World Day – has been revisited in a variety of ways, including images of her self-isolating in the Louvre Museum, or covering her enigmatic smile with a surgical mask.
“This is how, despite the crisis, art is demonstrating its resilience today”, explained the UNESCO chief.
Paying tribute to the solidarity shown by artists and institutions at a time when “art is suffering the full force of the effects of a global health, economic and social crisis”, she flagged that this time of confinement can also be “a period of openness to others and to culture, to strengthen the links between artistic creation and society”.
Through the hashtag #ShareCulture, UNESCO has invited everyone to communicate their love of art by sharing it broadly.
The coronavirus pandemic has closed museums and cancelled concerts, plunging many cultural institutions into uncertainty and immediate financial loss while also threatening a long-term effect on the arts.
As the world waits for the current measures to be lifted, vulnerable groups who are unable to get online, exacerbating a global digital divide, have even greater difficulty in gaining access.
Keeping art alive requires the twofold approach of supporting cultural professionals and institutions, and promoting access to art for all, according to Ms. Azoulay.
As these challenges require far-reaching cultural policies it will be necessary to “listen to the voices of the artistic world in their globality and diversity”, she stressed.
With the aim of affirming the resilience of art in during this difficult period and in preparing for the future, UNESCO has launched the “ResiliArt” movement, which, among other things, will consist of a series of global virtual debates with renowned artists and draw support for the cultural world throughout the crisis.
And looking forward, guidelines will be drawn up on improving the protection of artists for future crises.
The UNESCO chief urged everyone to participate in “this strong impetus for culture” to prove that even in a period of personal distancing, “art brings us closer together than ever before”.
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