Have you ever wondered how art museums prioritized the types of assessions purchased or collected? Essentially, why is it important to protect works of art, especially in an era in which the precious art object is rapidly being replaced by the non-collectible, documentary or performance pieces. I'd like to present a fanciful analogy between the museum collection and the artist's studio walls. Why does the artist hang onto old pieces, when new pieces are constantly being created.
I think it has something to do with maintaining momentum and strength. The studio walls hold pieces that record the evolution of an idea. It is a kind of cheat sheet to keep the artist's momentum energized, telling where the artist has been and hinting where the artist is headed. It is a record of stuggle. Like the studio wall, the museum is also a record of struggle, only on a humanistic scale. It records the struggle of the whole of humanity, building upon the timeline that so quickly fades with each passing world event.
To clarify the importance of this stuggle, I'd like to state something that is perhaps a little obvious. Life's observatin has profound parallels with the art world. One might ask the quesition, "Why don't artists only create images that are beautiful. That would be like asking the question, if the world was filled only with good things would we be living in a better place? Nothing could be further from the truth. What might be good in one instance may have negative consequences in another.
Let's say we eliminate mosquitoes because they are sources of disease and discomfort. This would disrupt the food chain for higher life forms, possibly eliminating whole species of other animals that we need and enjoy. For another example, let's say we find a way to produce free energy. This would eliminate the need for money, because everything was now free. Most of society would lose its incentive to work, becoming lazy and complacent. What if we substantially reduced the death rate? Over-population would skyrocket, leaving little room on the planet for new people. You see, there are always unintended consequences. It's like the story of granting three wishes from a magic lamp. As the story goes, each time the person made a wish, their situation became increasingly worse. Eventually, the person was forced to use the last wish to undo the first two. I believe that humans are at their best if they have struggle. That gives purpose for ourselves and the world.
An Obvious Conclusion
Without pain, there wouldn't be a point of reference to judge happiness. If the artist had no stuggle then the artwork would be formulaic. Ancient playwrights knew this lesson all too well. They fashioned their stories with one essential ingredient, the antagonist. The hero must have some resistance and even have a possibility of failure. This is the ingredient or spice to make the broth exquisite. It is with this stuggle the postmodern artist is in his/her element. The art grows and is made rich, with many layers of struggle, intrigue, and energy. Without the grey areas the form would be flat. All the defects of humanity must be preserved or documented. This duty falls to the museums, to fill the role of educator and registrar.