Art and politics

Art by Banksy via ICASC

The relationship between art and politics is versatile. Art can contribute to political campaigns by supporting current ideological attitudes. More often than not, however, art is a subversive form that serves as a tool to change existing political and social realities.

Artists themselves may be activists within a political movement or organization, but often they alone bring about political change without aligning themselves with any pre-existing political force.

Street artist Banksy, for instance, is famous for his political art pieces, dealing with a variety of topics including war, migration, etc. His artworks hold a mirror up to society and provide a different perspective on certain political issues.

Street art, Palestine via AMIDEAST

Art and activism also play an important role in society. Environmental artists greatly support the goals of the environmental movement, either by creating art from recycled and eco-friendly materials or by encouraging reduced jet travel, meat consumption, waste sorting, energy efficiency, etc.

The Great Plastic Wave by Nic Mac

Art as a form of protest can be used to organize people around a certain goal. Art can inspire and empower people to become change-makers in their surroundings.

Political art can serve as a way of preserving important historical events. Every year, the Smithsonian commissions portraits of a U.S. President and First Lady, that are kept permanently in the gallery`s collection. They are not only magnificent art pieces of art but also serve as chronicles of American history.

The release of portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama in 2018 was of particular significance. For the first time in history, both sitters and artists (Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald) were African American. Bright and brilliant, these portraits are a compelling testament to the long journey that African Americans have had to go through to integrate into the country’s political institutions.

Barack Obama by Kehinde Wiley; Michelle Obama by Amy Sherald via NYTimes

Of course, not all political art is aimed at making the world a better place. Sometimes artists are even commissioned to produce works that support certain political campaigns. his type of political art s usually called propaganda. It is used to distort reality by spreading ideas that further one end and/or harm the opposite cause. Propaganda art can take many forms such as paintings, sculptures, public art, etc.


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