A lot of art is well-loved because it appears ground-breaking, rebellious, and counter-culture. And that pretty much sums up its artistic value; past that, there’s not really all that much to it.
On the other hand, anything that’s popular is despised in artistic circles. Critics see it as selling out, tripe, and basically vanilla. In essence, if something is popular it has to have absolutely no artistic value.
If you want to see my point, track down your local liberal or art paper or magazine, and read the reviews, and chart the star ratings (or whatever they use) against how much it took to make the film. The trend is that the more money it took to make the movie, the fewer whatevers it gets; conversely, the less money it took to make it, the more whatevers it gets. Foreign and independent movies tend to get the most whatevers, but potential blockbusters rarely get more a number of them. An Adam Sandler movie will never get four stars, regardless of how much fun the movie is.
Jhonen Vasquez is a great artist not because of his edgy artistic style (whatever that means), but because he has fun doing what we all want to do: He takes those things that we deal with everyday and want to see die in the most painful way possible. That’s what makes his art Johnny the Homicidal Maniac comics so much fun to read. He despises his fans, and it’s not hard to see why. They see that he is making fun of popular culture and the corporate mentality, and that there is a lot of blood, but they just don’t get the actual joke. By concentrating on the “gothiness” they just don’t get the point.
Consider Warhol’s Campbell soup can. He wasn’t trying to make an ironic point, in that an artist can make art out of anything, but rather that there is a lot more art out there than we are aware of. Consider the can in and of itself: It’s an attractive can, and when you see it you have a definite feeling of comfort, mainly because the product is associated with fond memories (in my case, grilled cheese sandwiches and Campbell’s tomato soup). This isn’t to endorse Campbell’s, but rather point out that there is some artistic merit to the product (this is an art AND marketing blog, after all).
The thing to consider here is that a true artist doesn’t care about whether or not your art sells. The point is whether or not you get you point across. A Campbell’s soup can definitely gets its point across: We have a product that we think is good for you. On the other hand, a lot of independent films don’t; they’re too busy celebrating that they are making a movie and tend to forget things like characters and plot. Oops, but look at us!
Sorry, but I’d rather have my art represent something than just do it. Tomato soup is actually filling. Not all art films have much more than pretty pictures; nothing to fulfill you there. Art doesn’t have to be dark, boring or cheap; it can be light, exciting and expensive. Artists rebel against authority when they are young; why do they do nothing but listen to them when they get older. Why do critics hold so much sway when it comes to defining art?