• gerard van weyenbergh

Contemporary art and Populism

Trump is only a symptom of profound social unrest, as more than 71 million Americans, 8 million more than in 2016, voted for him despite his erratic policies and aggressive rhetoric. As in many countries, including France, the populist wave is not weakening. It feeds on economic inequalities but also on a feeling of cultural exclusion.

In this regard, it would be unwise to ignore the polemicist Éric Zemmour about contemporary art, which we reproduce below. This diatribe reflects the exasperation, precisely of that part of the population seduced by the populists. By stigmatizing two politically opposed tendencies - financialization (which is more on the right) and what he calls "prêchi-prêcha" (on the left) - Zemmour goes beyond the traditional cleavage in favor of the elite / anti-elite division.

By the way, we notice that Eric Zemmour is careful not to point the finger at the appropriation of contemporary art by business people or luxury brands (we are in Le Figaro). While the crux of the problem lies here: the general public apprehends contemporary art, less through works than through its ultra-rich buyers and sponsors. And at the time of "yellow vests," this assimilation goes badly.

This rejection of the image of contemporary art is nothing new in the history of art, but what is worrying today is that it is becoming a social issue at a time when society is fracturing. As often, the image does not stick to reality: the general public appreciates contemporary art in its version of urban monumental art or street art. And as long as we take the time to explain it, he understands, without necessarily appreciating them, many less immediate works.

It is still and always a problem of incarnation. To make room for Eric Zemmour and the elites he fustigates, it would take a Stéphane Bern of contemporary art, a popular, authentic personality, capable of making fun of mediocre creations to appreciate better the works that will resist time.


"A system that lives in a vacuum, in the middle of an international class above ground, considers the work of art as a financial product and uses museums as an artistic certification of objects which have no other in themselves.

Aesthetic value: paradoxical when one wants to be transgressive.

This is the world of the ultrarich, crazy and high-profile auctions, free ports and dirty money laundering, preaching on diversity, gender, anti-racism and the defense of LGBT rights, provocations of pimply adolescent, and beauty treated like a plague, the elegance of forms like fascism. "

© Le Journal des Arts