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Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium

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Art History

Is beauty adaptive?

As arts managers we’re in the business of beauty. Aesthetics are important to us. Preserving them, understanding them, honoring them, honing them, creating them, accessing them… we may not all agree about what is beautiful, but we certainly know much of art, whether it is making cultural commentary or seeking shock value, gives us pleasure to behold.

Denis Dutton speaks in this incredible TED talk (with help from the absolutely amazing Andrew Park. If you haven’t seen it already, his latest video of Iain McGilchrist’s “The Divided Brain” is amazing) about beauty and the incredible history of the artistic need for creating and celebrating beautiful art objects. Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder. It’s a gift, according to Dutton, deep within our minds handed down from ancestral celebration of human intelligent skills and an emotional connection that pre-dates language. As arts managers we are important, arguable essential, in the preservation and innovation of beauty.

As an arts manager what do you think of Dutton’s Darwinian theory of beauty? How can we use this understanding of beauty and it’s connection to our emotional center to protect and advocate for our arts organizations?

Getting Naked in the Nude

In today’s NYTimes article “An Unblushing Career of Undressing Women” Karen Rosenberg takes a look at the show “Degas and the Nude,” at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. She suggests the show explores how to Degas, “the academic nude, the prostitute, the dancer and the bather were essentially the same woman. The naked body was a constant; what changed, from picture to picture, was society.”

Society continues to change and as time marches on the historical art relics we hold so dear begin to change to us. Any student of Art History 101 knows in the art world context is used to explain everything. We absorb details about the lives, times and technology that these past great minds lived and operated in. What we increasingly fail to look at, however, is how theses pieces can still speak to us without the trappings of “meaning” or the rationalization of history.

How will we as emerging arts leaders deal with our artistic past? When we present complicated or historic works that were created in times so different from our own are we required to present extra information to explain to our audiences how to react? What to feel?

I’m glad for a glimpse at this side of Degas, often we allow our audiences to pigeon hole great artists past by their most popular and palatable work instead of viewing them within the context of our time as well as theirs.

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