Art: The Best Kept Secret?

30 Aug

photo from here

Last week, you may have read about Cecilia Gimenez’s disastrous attempt to restore Ecce Homo, a religious painting by Elias Garcia Martinez, which had been hanging peacefully in the Spanish Sanctuary of Mercy for over 100 years.

The 80 year old Gimenez took it upon herself to ‘restore’ the painting – and the rest, as we say, is history. The story of the artistic blooper has since gone viral, becoming one of the most read stories on BBC News , and a number of bloggers and social media fanatics deciding to capitalise on this opportunity to create spoof versions of some of the most famous paintings in the world…[check out this site to see exactly what I mean]

Despite this appalling graffiti on an important historical artefact, I believe one positive thing can be taken from the whole fiasco:  art has made mainstream headlines.

So often, art and culture are confined to the review sections of magazines; crammed into a double page spread of small box adverts, or featured only in niche publications with a rather specific – and often narrow – readership.

Of course, there are exceptions: when The Scream came up for sale back in May and sold for a grand total of $120 million, it got people talking.  The National Gallery’s Leonardo exhibition was widely publicised, and as a result sold out in the midst of da Vinci fever.  Yet, on the whole art seems to fail to capture the minds of the vast majority, with culture stories rarely going viral via social media (except, perhaps, when something goes scandalously wrong…)

The whole situation got me thinking, why art is so marginalised? Years ago, art was a political tool, a talking point and a symbol of power.  Even today, art is such an important part of man’s cultural expression; a visual symbol of the values he holds dear; a freeze frame from history; a didactic tool to influence and persuade.

I truly believe that an appreciation of art and culture is something which needs to be encouraged; and with so much heritage and so many cultural attractions across the UK (which are so often free of charge), I say, let’s get out and see it.

Art shouldn’t just be making the headlines due to a restoration faux pas, or a ground-breaking sale.  With so many great organisations out there like the @artfund, the @nationalgallery and @englishheritage, let’s get out there and spread the word, and appreciate the importance of art as a part of our history, as well as an expression of today’s society.

About the writer: Ellie is a history graduate and PR Consultant. She loves reading, dipping into 1984, Harry Potter and The Bell Jar. When she hasn’t got her nose in a book she enjoys creative writing, museums and galleries across the UK. When she has the time, she also likes nothing more than catching up with a few friends over dinner and a cocktail or two!


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