What is Popular Art?

What Does Popular Art Mean

We explain what folk art is and what types of folk art exist. In addition, its importance, characteristics and concrete examples.

Popular art plays an important role in shaping national identities.

What is popular art?

It is not easy to define popular art, or its opposite category, elites or elitist art. These terms are used to designate different approaches to the phenomenon of art , based on the consideration of which social class would be most reflected in it: the popular classes or the elites.

This distinction, inherited from the idea of Fine Arts or higher arts versus the lower or popular arts, has been questioned on numerous occasions during the 20th and 21st centuries. It is common to use it as a synonym for mass or majority art , which would be the easiest to understand and the least educational requirement, against cultured or minority art, which is much more demanding with its interlocutor.

This would also lead to the ideal of the mainstream versus the alternative, that is, of central, controlled and massively consumed art forms, alongside marginal art forms with less impact, but greater cultural value.

Similarly, it can be spoken in certain contexts of popular art to refer to folklore or inherited traditions , when not to art committed to social or political militancy. It should never be confused with Pop-art, an aesthetic movement born around the year 1960.

See also: Street art

Types of folk art

There is no proper classification of popular art, but broadly speaking we can talk about:

  • Popular music. Musical expressions of a diverse spirit, involving different instruments (often borrowed from neighboring cultures ) and connecting with local, national or regional motifs and imaginaries, usually accompanied by dance .
  • Popular lyric. Verse and recitative forms such as Spanish romance, or Argentine payeo; They are usually given as verses or counterpoints, at parties or social events.
  • Popular dance. Traditional forms of dance that tend to bring the community together and reinforce a certain sense of belonging. They are usually mestizo or traditional dances, in contact with ancestral heritages .
  • Oral literature. Stories that are transmitted orally, rarely collected in books, from generation to generation and that reflect popular values and customs , local or ancient anecdotes, and even mystical or religious fables and motifs.
  • Crafts. These are generally sculptures , paintings , ceramics, textiles or pieces of gold, which are traditionally made in a region and contain its cultural motifs. These are usually pieces with either a simple decorative or practical function, such as ashtrays, pots, etc.

Importance of popular art

Popular art plays an important role in shaping national identities , since by not being fully subject to the rules and processes of "high" culture, it can move more freely and incorporate trends, techniques and products of a very diverse nature. invoice.

For many, this is its true value as an expression of the reality of peoples, which is always mixed, complicated and difficult to define.

Characteristics of popular art

Popular art does not belong to a specific historical period.
  • It arises in the Renaissance . With the rise of a new wealthy social class, the bourgeoisie , the artists who previously produced their pieces for a patron of the aristocracy find a much wider audience in wealthy merchants. This art, however, was scorned by aristocrats as "popular art."
  • It is popularized in the Industrial Revolution . Thanks to mass culture and the technical reproduction of works of art , a new category of the "popular" has emerged, which now refers to what is massively consumed, what is produced and sold to the wider public.
  • It has no epochs. Although the origins of the concept can be marked, popular art does not belong to a historical period or a specific movement, but rather brings together a set of pieces from different origins.
  • It does not refer to authors. Although it is possible to talk about and name popular artists, the most common is that popular art refers to a category of cultural expressions to which it is difficult to attribute authorship.

Examples of popular art

  • The basket weaving of the North American aborigines who survived the colonization process, such as the Makah, of the late 19th or early 20th centuries.
  • The South American dance with drums (in Argentina and Uruguay) known as Candombe or Candombé.
  • The weaving of the sebucán, a festive tradition of indigenous origin in Venezuela.
  • The Valencian Fallas, in Spain, a series of festivities full of local icons that take place in the first half of March every year.
  • The skulls and the bread of the dead, Mexican folk gastronomy to celebrate the day of the dead.
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