The Art Patron: Art under Socialism versus Capitalism

In Art Collecting
untouchables movie
“The Untouchables” movie, 2011

By art, we mean a figurative understanding of reality, the process, and the result of expression of the internal and external (concerning the artist) world. So any work of art is artistic fiction, or a reflection of what the author sees understands, and feels. Everything connected with words or art is subjective and depends on how a person perceives this or another fact and what kind of society a person is in. Socialism and capitalism are often opposed to each other as equality and inequality. It is more difficult for a rich person to understand a poor person. The rich person believes that the poor have all the opportunities to become rich and that the poor are equal to being lazy. And the poor thinks that he is deprived of opportunities. As far as we know, most people in society are conformists, so the social system, in one way or another, affects most artists by imposing specific frameworks or values on their work and mind. Even though there's no pure capitalism nor socialism anywhere in the world, and everyone has their own view on what correct capitalism or socialism is, almost every country has elements of both structures.

Under capitalism, wealthy people determine the trends and direction of future art. The consequences and results depend only on one who holds power and money. It may be good as well as may not. Rich people decide what art is and what is not, what has worth and what has not. Usually, in this economic and social system, art is regarded as a material value. It acquires such attributes as private, expensive exhibitions where only the rich and plutocrats buy and sell masterpieces for fabulous sums of money, sometimes even paintings that do not have artistic, historical, or cultural value. It happens because is the primary value in capitalist society is material welfare. The value of art depends on who painted the picture and on its importance in the market. Art just turns into private parties for the moneybags. And it will be nearly impossible for new talented artists to achieve public popularity or success through the use of art-related talents. It doesn't mean there are no good examples or that all rich people are bad, but art may be literally anything under this structure that can be good and may not.

“The red iceberg” unknown american artist. Cold war times.
“The red iceberg” unknown american artist. Cold war times.
Art by Grant Wood
Art by Grant Wood
Bob Ross: Joy of painting
Bob Ross: Joy of painting

Under socialism, art is a property of the public. Every person is equal, and every artist is equal, as well as masterpieces itself. Art is regarded as cultural, artistic, or entertainment value without regard to material worth. The masterpieces are in national galleries, and everyone has the right to enter and see the paintings live. The attributes of art in this structure of society will be the general accessibility of people to artistic activities, exhibitions, and the creation of arts through free admission to galleries for everyone and free drawing equipment for children in schools. Under socialism, the state regulates the rich people's wealth through progressive taxation. Each person has the same value of opinion as to the other person. And society in socialism ridicule such things as greed, so it's simply a shame to be greedy and only care about your well-being in a socialist society, so such thing as material worth of art is replaced merely by cultural or historical value.

As we can see, there's not much difference between the art of two completely different systems. Arts of both systems have propaganda, landscapes, drawings explaining simple life. The main difference between art under socialism and capitalism is: art under socialism have no material worth, and society determine whether it is a masterpiece or not, art is easy to understand; art under capitalism have material value, can be placed at auction, and being sold, and particular rich person determine whether it is worthy or not. And also the presence of incomprehensible arts.

As I said earlier, everyone understands capitalism and socialism differently. There is no pure capitalism or socialism globally, and each society has any attributes from both. If we accept the United States nowadays as capitalism, and the USSR as socialism, then we get that capitalism equals freedom. Socialism is equal to totalitarianism, authoritarianism, and the lack of freedom of speech and art. Which is the correct definition for countries but not for the meaning of socialism and capitalism. Socialism and capitalism are always limited to some kind of different framework, and not always what calls itself socialism or capitalism is really capitalism or socialism. Art in the USSR mostly was monotonous monuments, propaganda posters, drawings about Soviet life, limited by a single theme, idea, and censorship. Life in the Soviets was hard, and those who lived at that time prefer to be silent on any topic as there is even a proverb "My tongue is my enemy." We cannot blame anyone except the totalitarian government and a complicated life consisting only of work for this. But we can't say that socialism is evil. Totalitarianism is bad. In this case, the state largely influenced artists and art in general, and it cannot be accepted as the touch of socialism. As well as we can't say that the freedom of art in the US exists thanks to capitalism.

In conclusion, I want to say this topic is much deeper than just the confrontation between socialism and capitalism and touches on many significant problems of humanity. The value of art under capitalism is determined by those who own the money and under socialism - by the whole of society. It doesn't matter for art if it's socialism or capitalism, but the one who determines its value is important. All points of view are subjective, which is art for one, rubbish for another. Art must be free, show multiple points of view, and express the artist's will without any restrictions. Otherwise, it would not be art. Art is a figment of the author's imagination or point of view, and it should not be censored by the state or political regime of this state. Both social systems are suitable for art if there is no political censorship and no persecution for expressing opinions.