Art: Low, High. All the same?

Odile's picture

In the last episode, our guests discuss for a moment the distinction between low and high art. So I was struck when this topic "reemerged" when I visited the new Takashi Murakami exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. In the intro to the show, we are told that Murakami mixes what appears to be "high" and "low" art to a Western eye, but that he merely reflects Japanese culture, which according to him at least, traditionally does not distinguish between either.

Is that true? I don't seem to be able to get more info online about this. No low Kaikai and high Kiki? Really?

WmAnthony's picture

I queried a friend of mine

I queried a friend of mine who has lived in Japan for the past twenty years and only now resides back in the States about this and he replied:

"I think that there is some truth to what the fellow said about the high and the low mixing. But I think it is over done. Japan has always had its elite classes - one things of the emperial family, samurai, etc. Traditionally a lot of art - such as the Noh plays - was strictly off limits to the commoners. Today, I think it is true that low and high art is mixed. The world of pop culture is everywhere in Japan - not unusual, for example to see a sophisticated high class man/lady reading a comic book in their limo. Yeah, that is what Japan is about - and I suspect it has a lot to do with a buddhist way of mind."

I hope this helps,

Odile's picture

Thanks Wm!Your response, or

Thanks Wm!Your response, or that of your friend, leads me to the following comment: don't you think it is the same here? Our dear forums editor is a fan of Gossip Girl...yet he can recite Shakespeare by heart! Also, what we often consider "high" art today started as "regular" art, I guess.I am thinking in this instance of Moliere, who actually worried that Parisians would not appreciate his plays as much as people living the provinces, because they were too unsophisticated, too popular, in content and in style.  He is actually quoted as saying:  "I don't understand how witty people can enjoy what I give them; but I know that if I were them I would not appreciate my work at all."

WmAnthony's picture

Categorically I would have

Categorically I would have to disagree that it's the same here. Certain segments of our population -- I include you and I -- do engage culture in its many forms, but I do think that there are high audiences who would never stoop to read a graphic novel, say, and there are certainly the low audiences who fail year in and year out to purchase poetry or read anything other than the news crawl. We -- you and I -- might indeed see our culture as a blend, but that is because we dip into both for edification. Unlike Moliere, and others, I don't conceive of culture geographically, but rather see it as a stratification of class and in other ways the culling of common interests that cross the borders of province and city.