One aspect of RedBubble that has got little attention is where it fits in the development of art. Firstly a caveat, I probably only know just enough to be wrong.
Ploughing on regardless, I believe RedBubble is part of a revolution in the artistic market. It is about the rediscovery that art can be embedded in the fabric of society rather than spread on top like a thin veneer of Vegemite. Since the Renaissance, art has been what a tiny elite produced and sold at vast prices to another tiny elite. The art world was open only to the wealth few and a cabal of elevated artists.
I have been lucky in my life and have some of this art on my walls. I know it is art because somebody has told me it is and because it cost a smallish fortune. It bloody well better be art or I want my money back.
But then, taking a deep breath, I look at what my children produce (or an even deeper breath, what I produce) and I understand that this elite view of art is only part of the picture. I know in non-Western societies art can be much more democratic – anybody can participate in the process. Australia’s Aboriginals maintain this capacity but they are not unique (I have seen a similar thing in Bali).
There was a dream of many in the 19th century to return to democratic art. John Ruskin felt everybody had a right to beauty. But the technology has worked against such dreams. In the era of mass production, everyday art is uniformly bland. Ikea continues to churn out an art mediocrity that manages to insult both the artist and the purchaser.
And so RedBubble. I feel the site is creating new artists and new art purchasers. We strive to deliver the highest quality and each work, while not unique, is certainly rare. Building a great collection of traditional art is beyond almost everybody’s reach. A great collection from RedBubble can easily be aspired to for a few thousand dollars. All the Bub’s art lacks (in general) is the imprimatur of art elite who tell us it is good. As for me, my RedBubble purchasers sit proudly beside traditional works and I will dare anybody to say which has intrinsically more value.
Next week I am meeting with the Chairman of the National Gallery of Australia. We will see if he shares my views on the evolution of art. I will pitch him to try and get a RedBubble art installation, which I see as truly modern art, not just a change in the medium (or content) but a change in the very meaning of art itself. This is a change enabled by the power of the Internet combined with print-on-demand technology.