Monday, May 17, 2010

Question of the Week

I was walking around our hill the other day with my wife, Ellie, and our friend, the artist Nancy Turner-Smith, and we were trying to find a useful distinction between fine art and commercial art. Here's mine: "Commercial art is about production. Fine art is about invention." Okay, admittedly it's provisional and debatable. So what do you think?

(The Twitter version is: Commercial art is about production. Fine art is about invention. A useful distinction? Have your say at


David Palmer said...

Peter, I think you're on the right track, but for me the distinction is a bit different.

I'd say commercial art is about giving people more of what they already know they like, whereas fine art (at its best) gives them something new to expand their experience of the world. I don't think it's completely either/or, but something of a continuum.

Regarding invention vs production, an artist can be very inventive in terms of how they approach production. Their invention is the process that generates the product.

Spender said...

Off the top of my head I'd have to say: Commercial is art used commercially. Fine art is art almost no one ever sees and for which even fewer pay the artist. Simplistic (possibly) and cynical (well, I think it's cynical).

Second try: Art is art. Art is what an artist does. Art is the act of creation (the Artist as god). After that we can discuss how it was generated (artist's inspiration, commissioned by a corporation or individual, etc.) then how it is used; e.g. commercially, public decoration, private gift, personal enjoyment, ad infinitum.

I believe that "commercial art" does not objectively exist. I understand it is a useful category, one of those delightful shortcuts from abstraction to reality, part of an organizational grid I superimpose on my experience to make sense of it. Art used commercially, is art.

And I could be wrong.

Thanks for listening.


PeterAtLarge said...

Thanks for the added insight and refinement of my question, David.

And Spencer, I do think a good number of people get to see fine art, and fine art can also be commercialized (see Gagosian Gallery!)--although many might argue that once Gagosian gets his hands on it, it's commercial!

stuart said...

artists have only themselves. Commercial art has focus groups and committees.

artbylmr said...

Commercial art is more of a commodity, produced in mass quantities for the purpose of affordability. This makes it less unique and more commonplace.

Fine art is originally created as a one-of-a-kind work giving it more value just by it's rareness and uniqueness.

I am aware that the lines are getting blurred with Print on Demand websites and sites like Zazzle where pieces originally created as fine art can be sold as commodities on t-shirts and mugs. I am guilty of taking part in these venues to get my art seen.
Alternately, with the popularity of digital art, commercial art can be just as beautiful and creative as fine art.