While exploring the halls of the TATE Modern, I came into contact with a wide range of artistic styles and mediums. On the surface, some appeared to be far more complex than others; some demanded attention while others were largely unnoticeable. Nonetheless, all of the pieces in the museum clearly qualify as art despite the apparent disconnect between works. This threw into question, what precisely is art? How would one designate an artist?
This print by Joseph Beuys created in 1975 engages with this question of artistry. The headline as well as the title of the piece reads “Is everyone an artist?” There is no answer provided in the remaining text, but simply information about a seminar that will supposedly tackle the subject. It is unsurprising that the question goes unanswered here, as there is no one correct way to respond to the question posed. Some may agree that everyone is in fact an artist, while others may insist that it’s a rare breed. Still, the answer itself is not important to this piece. It opens up a dialogue between people, offering a mediated environment in which to discuss their views on art and artistry. And is that not what the museum itself does? The TATE Modern houses such a varied collection of art that it is impossible not to compare one work to another, or artist to artist. This environment encourages conversation not only about the works of art themselves, but the deeper meaning of art as a whole.
However, although the museum is a controlled space it is not neutral ground, as there is a silent bias in which artists are chosen to be displayed. The piece “Do Women Have to be Naked to Get Into the Met Museum” was created in 1989 by a group of “anonymous American female artists who call themselves Guerilla Girls” (Tate.org.uk) and directly confronts the sexism of large art institutions. Much like Beuys' work, this print poses a direct question, and although providing some statistics, there is no answer provided. It is left up to the audience to formulate their own answer regarding female artists specifically just as they would for artists in general after prompting from “Jeder Mensch ein Kustler?”. The thought provoking nature of the Guerrilla Girls’ piece forces the audience to consider why there is a disproportionate amount of works by men to women in art institutions. Perhaps the answer is that men are socially viewed as artists and women as art. This concept is discussed in John Berger’s “Ways of Seeing” as he states “men act and women appear” (Berger 47). Essentially what this means is that male artists are credited as such for the work they create whereas women are objectified as art themselves with little regard for their artistic ability. This understanding of the sexism of art museums in the Guerrilla Girls’ piece appears to be an answer to “Jeder Mensch ein Kustler?” While anyone has the potential to be an artist, not everyone is recognized by that title despite being deserving of it.