What is the value of art? Some esteem it as gold, others as paper, others as something of less value yet. “What good is art?” they ask, “what has art ever accomplished?”
I suppose the best answer to this later expression is to answer the question with a question. “Why is anything worth accomplishing?” After all, nothing man does truly lasts. And yet despite this eternity is, as the bible say, in ours hearts – the need to understand and feel connected to the past and the need to feel we are making some contribution to the future. For many art — its study, its creation, and its appreciation, is the greatest tool (apart, perhaps, from family) in our accomplishing this.
“Art,” it has been said, “is in the eyes of the beholder.” And this is true. Time, experience, culture and community all apprise our judgement of art — what it is and how it is to be valued. And some appreciation of art is common to all societies of men. As novelist Jane Austen wittingly commented on one such – the art of dance.
Sir William: “Do you dance, Mr. Darcy?”
Mr. Darcy: ”Not if I can help it!”
Sir William: There is nothing like dancing,.. I consider it as one of the first refinements of polished societies.”
Mr. Darcy: ”Certainly, sir; and it has the advantage also of being in vogue amongst the less polished societies of the world; every savage can dance.”
Point, set and match to Mr. Darcy.
Yet even if we agree that “art” itself is deemed of some universal value, we still may disagree on what exactly “art” is.