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The Rife Team

Why aren’t young people going to cultural places? Oh, this is why:

socialexperiencesclub.co.uk and Saatchi Gallery

Credit: socialexperiencesclub.co.uk and Saatchi Gallery

One half of the internationally famous Chapman brothers said something and Jon has a problem with it.

In 2011, when lecturer Mar Dixon asked various 6th form students if they would visit a cultural institution without being forced by a teacher, most replied with a resounding ‘no’, reasons being that they felt ‘too thick’, ‘too poor’ or that the experience ‘just wasn’t for them’.

Jake Chapman’s recent statement about taking children to art galleries being ‘a waste of time’ is indicative of everything wrong with the Fine Art world, and provides an insight into the issues from which Dixon’s findings inevitably stem.

Exclusionary and elitist, the idea that art is for a set audience – the implication here being young adult and up – is a sad reflection of the way the contemporary art world works, and my biggest problem with it.

Quoted in The Independent Online, Chapman claims that parents of the children in question are ‘arrogant’ for thinking their offspring can understand the work. This itself is suggestive that Chapman – or presumably those he represents in terms of age – can understand art, which if anything sounds like a far more arrogant view than the one he has vocalised, though we are dealing with the international art world here.

Reading between the lines of Chapman’s statement we have the classic academia vs. the uneducated argument that has always riled me. I totally agree that the study of art can bring new meaning to art – I wouldn’t have spent three years doing so otherwise – but I also believe wholeheartedly that art is for all, and that if you can justify your interpretation then you can go as wild as you want. Unfortunately, art is often presented in such a way that immediately excludes swathes of the population, in the guise of something that they just won’t get, and only through the accumulation of knowledge will they ever have a chance of understanding and therefore enjoying.

If you want to step into a white cube gallery then you have to fit a certain mould:  educated, middle-class, and financially stable (even if you dress to imply the opposite).

You’re there to augment an already hefty bank of cultural capital and heaven forbid you should see an art show without being able to nod your way authentically through the gallery’s blurb. Alienation, it would seem, is key to maintaining the pretense of elitism.

Several years ago I went to Tate Liverpool and walked into the Rothko exhibition that was currently on. I loved every minute of being there; my dad, however, took one look and walked straight out again leaving me alone with the pretty colours. Both of these are completely valid reactions.

Of course my dad didn’t appreciate the nuances of the brushstrokes or the depth of the colours, nor did he break down why he had that reaction – he simply looked at it with eyes that hadn’t been indoctrinated by the art establishment and made a judgement.

Of course it’s ridiculous of parents to expect their children to appreciate art in the same way that somebody with a lifetime of experience and an MA will, but it is stupid of Chapman to assume that seeing said art work would not inform their early development onto the aforementioned route into the very world in which he thrives so successfully. Give it a few decades and Chapman himself will be seeing art in a different way to that he is currently, but maybe he should just stop now because it’s all ‘a total waste of time

With their own work littered with references to the Holocaust, Nazi symbolism and general violence the Chapman brothers delight in stirring controversy, and I have fallen spectacularly into their trap. Kudos, Jake.

Do you think the art world is elitist? Should children be banned from galleries? I’m open to changing my opinions – convince me @Rifemag or just have a look at this list of people you’ll definitely find at an art show opening night