Sugimoto’s Middle Brow and the Collective Horizon

Conference: The Kyoto Conference on Arts, Media & Culture (KAMC2021)
Title: Sugimoto’s Middle Brow and the Collective Horizon
Stream: Aesthetics and Design
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Aaron Ward, Toyo University, Japan


Is art for everyone? Although attendance at art galleries has risen rapidly at the start of the 21st century, so too has the price of art, and the perception that art is an object of conspicuous consumption. The current presentation provides a discussion of the possibilities that the photography of Hiroshi Sugimoto offers an artistic oeuvre that countenances the current state of the art market and is open to the aesthetic appreciation of a broader audience. As middlebrow mode of cultural production (Bourdieu 1996), photography is an artistic form that most people are familiar with, rendering it a medium that is broadly appreciable as a form of representation of common and cross-cultural experience. At the same time, photography can also satisfy the demands of highbrow cultural interpretation, meaning that it can act as a locus of community that provides access for a range of people to other forms of artistic culture. In particular, it is argued that Sugimoto’s Seascapes present a particular body of work of a subject matter and style that can be appreciated by people of any sociocultural background. Further, the often-made comparisons between these images and Mark Rothko’s multiform, colour-field paintings may offer viewers a bridge between middlebrow and highbrow culture, which has become, since Rothko’s death, more conceptually and economically challenging for audiences to engage with and understand.

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