As an amateur artist and crafter I’ve always enjoyed wandering through galleries filled with pieces that represent various artistic schools of thought just as much as I love roaming through craft stalls at shows or markets looking for meticulous craftsmanship.
There has always been a conscious effort to differentiate between the making of art and the creation of a craft. While the two are different in their own right the basic requirements to execute either are quite similar. I’ve always wondered: If the two forms of creating both require patience, dedication and skill why have the crafts been known as ‘low art’ while painting, sculpting and so forth have been considered to be the ‘high’ form of art?
So, when do the two meet? And, when they do, are the pieces considered fit for display at an art gallery?
When I began to ask myself this I began to come across a few examples of such pieces of art. Two such pieces are by Dada artist Sophie Taeuber-Arp, whose tapestry is currently on display at the Centre Pompidou among other pieces representing the Dada school of thought. Dada is an anti-art movement that immerged in the midst of WWI between 1914 and 1918. Its main aim was to rebel against culture creating ‘art’ where the ideas behind a piece were far more important than the completed object.
Interestingly enough, one can argue that this movement came to negate itself when it became so influential in the very world it rebelled against. So much so, that it not only is a key factor in art history as we know it but it has also pioneered many experimental art forms that have influenced many an artist to date. But that’s another story!
Back to Sophie Taeuber-Arp’s work. Taeuber-Arp was a Swiss artist who contributed to the Dada movement through her skills in pushing the limits of abstraction in painting, sculpture, dance and textile. “Tapisserie Dada, triangles, rectangles et parties d’anneaux, 1916” is a piece that explores vibrancy of colour and geometry in tapestry.
After contemplation, it seems to me that this particular piece has been accepted in an arts setting for two main reasons. 1) As it is Dada art, which in itself is a representation of ‘anti-art’, then it has been displayed as a form of not-art in this particular setting (especially at the onset of the movement). 2) It has been accepted as representing the experimentations of the Dada school of thought.
If the piece had not served such a purpose within the field of visual arts, the odds of it being displayed on the walls of an art gallery would be very slim.
So it seems as though artisans do have a place in ‘high-art’ society only if their work is reflective of a purpose beyond the skill required to execute a form of craft. However, art for art’s sake is always welcome in an arts space. Interesting, don’t you think?