In a world of mass production, the value of objects has drastically declined. The Uk was once a nation that boiled chicken bones to make stock for soup, and darned socks at least twice before there was any thought of throwing them away, but has now become a nation that wastes 7 million tonnes of food a year, and throws out clothing as if they were Kleenex. During the first and second World Wars, families had to ration their food and they would value their possessions. Hand-me-downs would be gratefully accepted and cherished instead of dismissed for something new and exciting. This disposable mindset has taken over throughout the past few decades, but the question is, is mass production to blame?
The word ‘craft’ barely exists anymore, at least not in its original form. In past years, great care would have been taken to ensure that every object was made to a high standard and made to last. Before machinery was capable of cutting precise lines and clean edges, a great pride would have been taken to manually produce objects and household items which meant that every object was unique and individual. Although mass production has allowed for more objects to be made faster, it has taken away their worth as objects in themselves. The value of something automatically decreases when more than one is made available. So when hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of that object is made, then the value drops significantly, not only in price, but in Peoples mentality. For example, if a friend is wearing a coat that you really like, you may ask them where they bought it from, but when they tell you that it was their grandmothers from the 1920’s, the value of it for you, even subconsciously will increase significantly. Humans, from a very early age have an instinctual mindset to challenge themselves to get what they want but can’t have. So when something is made easily available to someone and is very cheap to buy, the lack of challenge when acquiring that object therefore leads to lack of value for it.
Objects that are produced in bulk tend to lack in quality. In the beginning they tended to serve only as a function but over years have there has been a push to design for function as well as aesthetics. In 1919, German architect Walter Gropius founded a school called the Bauhaus for the work of both visual artists and designers to combine. His main aim was to inject the beauty of the arts into the function of design. Throughout this process many practices were combined and discoveries made, a lot of which are still in use today. The fundamental practices of many art schools even now are based on those of the Bauhaus school. This shows the importance of creating designs that combine these aspects, and hopefully in doing so will encourage more and more people to take pride in their possessions.
Lectures by Chris Byrne
Previous to becoming a politician, Adolf Hitlers dream was to be an artist. After being refused twice from art school for being too architectural in style, he turned to politics and when the Nazi party came into power after the first world war, no one could have expected what was to follow. The controlling nature of Hitler and his party seeped its way into culture and the arts as they tried to brainwash the public into appreciating only traditional and romantic art styles and disregarding all other new and modern art which they named ‘Degenerate’. In order to try to influence the publics opinion of these modern and abstract works, Hitler arranged for two exhibitions of artwork, one of what he perceived as ‘good’ art and one of ‘degenerate’ art. He was very disrespectful to the artists and work of the modern movements as he wanted to portray them as unprofessional. He did so by ordering them to be arranged badly on the wall and be accompanied by handwritten information signs. A room that consisted of only abstract art was named “The Insanity Room”, amongst other suggestions of biased views. The summer before the exhibition, Hitler Stated “Works of art which cannot be understood in themselves but need some pretentious instruction book to justify their existence will never again find their way to the German people”.
The artworks that Hitler approved of were predominantly paintings that were seen as more traditional in subject and style. These were hung on the gallery walls professionally and neatly, to show that they should be respected and appreciated. This intention to culturally control the public backfired significantly when the ‘Degenerate’ art exhibition was far more popular than the one of classical art.
Queues that filled the streets for the ‘Degenerate’ art exhibition in 1937
Throughout the years of 1937 and 1938, Hitlers attempts to culturally cleanse Germany continued when over 16,000 artworks of ‘Degenerate Art’ were removed from German Museums. Artworks were burned, sold for very little or kept to simply ridicule and ‘educate’ Germany as to what was commendable art and what wasn’t. Throughout years since then, many pieces that were seized or sold have been uncovered, the most recent, in Munich which were being hidden in the flat of Cornelius Gurlitt. Gurlitts father was an art collector for Hitler and had collected over 1,500 works by artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Paul Klee. Cornelius Gurlitt, now an 80-year-old man, had kept this stash a secret for many years, and when he needed money, would sell some of the lesser known paintings in order to avoid publicity. Discoveries like this prove invaluable to current artists, art critics and art enthusiasts to further their understandings of some of the greatest works of the modernist movement. It is hopeful that more discoveries like this will occur in future years but it is unlikely that we will ever know if all paintings will be recovered.
Replica of Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ found in Munich Stash
Lectures by Donna Leishman