Commercialism  

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"Like Dada before it, Fluxus included a strong current of anti-commercialism and an anti-art sensibility, disparaging the conventional market-driven art."[1]


Conventional wisdom holds that genius is underappreciated in its own time; one might compare Vincent van Gogh, who struggled for recognition during his life but is now a household word, with his contemporary Jean-Léon Gérôme, whose paintings and reproductions enjoyed immense popularity, but has since faded into relative obscurity. Gérôme has been variously accused of pandering to Orientalist fantasies and essentially peddling highbrow pornography (in essence, painting commercially motivated material instead of "high art"); no one would accuse van Gogh of pandering to his audience.

Modern examples are aplenty: one might compare Jim Davis, who built a commercial empire around merchandising his comic strip Garfield; the cartoon cat's image appears on everything from Post-it notes to plush dolls, to Bill Watterson, who steadfastly refused to permit any products (save for books of his strips) to be marketed with the characters from Calvin and Hobbes.[2]

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Commercialism, in its original meaning, is the practices, methods, aims, and spirit of commerce or business. Today, however, it is mainly used as a critical term, referring to the tendency within capitalism to try to turn everything in life into objects and services that are sold for the purpose of generating profit; commercialization, where the value of everything, including such intangible things as happiness, health and beauty become measured in purely commercial, materialistic terms, and where public services are being privatised or outsourced to private companies.

The related term "commercialized" is often used in an accusing way, implying that someone, often an artist or musician, has compromised the quality of his work for monetary gain, which is called "selling out". It can, for example, be applied to a painter who uses his/her talent to do flattering, expensive portraits to order, an independent music band that signs a contract with a major record label and then changes its music and/or appearance to become more appealing to a mass audience, or a novelist who switches from writing difficult "highbrow" novels to populistic thrillers.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Commercialism" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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