Does Art Have To Please?

Does art have to please?

It’s an interesting question and so often posed when we face or question the types of art works that are selected for display and accolade in our public art institutions. Perhaps the real issue is more about the function and purpose of art and from this perspective you can question “what it is that art is supposed to do?” As I get older my perspective on that question has changed considerably and if I were to define where I sat with it I would say that the very essence of art is that it makes you feel, and if that is its purpose, it allows you to embrace works that charm, excite, disarm, disgust, enlighten, envelope and all manner of emotion. Art cannot always be beautiful, it has and must continue to pull at the deepest thoughts within us, it must reflect us, it must challenge us, satirise us make us laugh and cry and fill us with curiosity and wonder.  Our lives are evolving collages they are not always pretty, they are layered with beautiful moments and dark hours, if art reflects that then it can never be sanitised.

Of course for galleries on a high street level this raises the question can you afford to pitch work from artists that will cause the viewer to be disturbed, be it on a political, decency, religious or other platform or should we leave that work to our institutions? It is a difficult course to navigate because survival on the high street is determined by positive engagement, but if you set out to purely please do you create an environment where everything looks the same? And if we leave it to our institutions to push forward with art that challenges do we polarise the debate even more and reinforce the widely held view that art is an intellectuals’ playground?