January 30, 2023


Connecting Asian writers with global readers

Pankaj Mishra: Is the idea of ‘Art for Art’s Sake’ a sign of social privilege?

1 min read
Pankaj Mishra
Pankaj Mishra

The insistence on creating art for art’s sake may appear to be aimed at rich connoisseurs. But it originally expressed the frustration of artists with nouveau-riche consumers. In the early 19th century, artists had been, if not unacknowledged legislators, then high priests of a sacralized art — the replacement for transcendental ideals in a secularized society. Schiller produced a grand theology of the new aesthetic religion, claiming that art was essential to the growth of moral and rational faculties in human beings. Poet-prophets such as Lord Byron, Adam Mickiewicz, Victor Hugo and Sandor Petofi ambitiously imagined new political communities. Contrary to Auden’s belief, poetry made much happen, briefly at least.

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