Creativity and commerce…mutual bedfellows?

Now the London Olympics has closed with a pretty striking closing ceremony – and let’s not forget the introductory fanfare – it’s got me thinking about how art sits within the commercial world today.

Pretty well, in many cases, in my opinion. Taking film director Danny Boyle’s work, seen by a TV audience of billions, as an example; surely this had to be at forefront of modern creativity, delivered on a grandiose scale as befitting the Olympic Games?

Yet the slickness and professionalism demanded of such high pressure opening and closing spectacles failed to iron out some delightfully British eccentricities, so I was a fan. Not everyone agreed, not least a certain Tory MP (although that was for reasons other than the pure artistic content) and I believe U.S. TV commentators were struggling to understand the many British cultural references. Perhaps you have to live here in the UK?

Throughout history, however, artists have often felt uneasy dealing with commerce, especially with the fear that it might compromise their ideals and ultimate expression.

Pablo Picasso is quoted as saying: “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist when he grows up.” Suggesting that a child’s nature creativity and inquisitive nature can be washed away with the necessary quest for work and commercial gain.

Meanwhile, American avant-garde guitarist and composer Frank Zappa had a more cynical take on the commercial world, saying: “The lessons learnt in the ’60s about merchandising stupidity to the American public on a large-scale have been used over and over again since that time.”

But you could always rely on Frank for being, well, frank on a wide range of subjects!

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