Is art useful to humans?
One can think of all kinds of ways to think about it, but one can also think of it as useless in terms of its practical function. If I were to put it in the words of the busy news these days, it would be “unnecessary and urgent.
In the wake of the Corona disaster, there has been no small amount of criticism of the government’s subsidies to professionals involved in culture and the arts in Japan. The theory that culture and the arts are “unnecessary and urgent” is rampant in Japan. While Germany and other countries around the world are providing generous support for culture and the arts, Japan is going against the grain. What we Japanese need to know, however, is that in times of crisis like the present, art can be useful to society in unexpected ways.
According to the American art magazine ArtReview, a group of Chinese museums and cultural organizations have decided to provide preventive hygiene products to over 100 schools affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The funds will come from a series of charity auctions titled “Standing Together Through Thick and Thin,” organized by the HOW Museum of Art, Yitiao, Modern Media Group (of which ArtReview and ArtReview Asia are members), ART021 (of which ArtReview and ArtReview Asia are members), ART021, and more than 80 major art institutions and galleries in China and abroad (including Hauser & Wirth, Edouard Malingue, BANK, Perrotin, and Lisson). Proceeds from the sale of donated art, prints and rare collectibles will be used by the charitable Shanghai Soong Ching Ling Foundation to purchase children’s masks, digital thermometers, disinfectants and other protective substances.
The auctions, which will take place via the Yitiao online platform, will begin on March 2 (editions, prints and collectibles), March 3 (contemporary art I) and March 4 (contemporary art II) and will last for two days each. While works by He Xun, aaajiao, Yin Xiuzhen, Lorna Simpson, Gregor Hildebrandt, Esther Mahlangu and others have already been donated, the auction is also seeking donations from individual artists, patrons and corporations.
In a statement on the fundraiser, the organizers said, “The increasing number of confirmed cases of the epidemic is due to the poor living conditions of the non-infected. In the face of this epidemic, we salute those who are waging the medical battle on the front lines. Their courageous efforts to fight the virus have put us in a safer position. Through our art, we hope to show that art has the power to inspire courage in these difficult times, and to carry out what we must do so that we can aspire to a better life through this time of great uncertainty.
Although the state of emergency was recently lifted, life “with Corona” will continue, and the reclusive lifestyle is likely to continue for some time to come. In that case, entertainment such as video games, cartoons, and television, which entertain us, came about because of the solid ground of culture and art cultivated by artists who spent their lives on their works and those who supported them.
I believe that the richness of life is hidden in something as “unnecessary and urgent” as art.