High Culture vs Low Culture

The ethereal beauty of the pop setting

By La Galleria Nazionale

Ritratto del Principe Aleksandr Ivanovic Barjatinskij (1837) by Horace VernetLa Galleria Nazionale

Browsing through the gallery of the Museum Beauty Contest on Google Arts and Culture you get the feeling that some beauty is truly timeless, as if the gaze of Hanka Zborowska by Modigliani or the woman of “Dreams” by Corcos conveyed a beauty and intensity that would even charm an audience from a distant time.

Veli rosa (1921) by Giacomo BallaLa Galleria Nazionale

But while normally the point of our discussion on the beauty of a subject in a work is expressed alongside praise for the painting technique, in this case judgment is exclusively given on the physicality, albeit two-dimensional, of the man or woman portrayed.

Autoritratto (1880) by Antonio ManciniLa Galleria Nazionale

And it is precisely in this sacrifice that the artist's signature can be glimpsed: the encounter between high culture, represented by the paintings of the National Gallery, and low culture, what could also be referred to as televoting culture, of the sterile choice of a Miss and of a Mr who have no merit other than being aesthetically pleasing according to the masses.

Ritratto di Jane Morris (1868 - 1874) by Dante Gabriele RossettiLa Galleria Nazionale

Overcoming borders and the fluidity with which you flow from a high topic to a lower one are not just the subject of the contest.

Polymnia (1909) by John LaveryLa Galleria Nazionale

Attempting to broaden one's point of view, one can understand how the work belongs to a much broader organic vision that includes the context that has been crafted around it and has seen it as protagonist.

Ritratto di Bernardo Celentano (1859) by Domenico MorelliLa Galleria Nazionale

The artist Paco Cao did not limit himself to the physical spaces of the National Gallery, but also presented the performance on ¡Tú sí que vales!, the programme of Channel 5 where competitors perform in front of a jury to showcase their talent. The vote is also expressed, as well as by the jury in the room, also by a popular jury, made up of the public, through televoting.

Annunciazione (1927) by Bruno CroattoLa Galleria Nazionale

Presenting the project in this new context also causes us to reflect on another detail. The people we are used to seeing in these programmes and their beauty, as well as the subjects of beauty contests, always have a side of eroticism to them.

While remaining on the same platforms and with the same voting tools, the non-physical nature of the works instead allows to discard this erotic/carnal aspect, confirming once again the success of the perfect union between high and low culture.

Ritratto di Gaetano dell'Acqua (1851) by Nicola ConsoniLa Galleria Nazionale

Thus, while at first the work seems to begin and end in the gesture of the spectators’ vote, it is perhaps the organic vision that reveals the actual explanation of the artist’s concept expressed at the beginning of the paragraph: “a relationship between art, public and context that challenges the boundaries between low and high culture”.

La Rosina nel "Barbiere" (1920) by Cipriano MannucciLa Galleria Nazionale

An ongoing performance, which manifests on multiple levels, in different times and ways, and above all capable of engaging an unusual audience and also of bringing works out of their usual home: the museum.

Credits: Story

Written by Marina Pietrocola.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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