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Lumiere London: Bringing Art to the Masses

Vishnu Varma visited Lumiere London, and here writes on whether the show really does bring modern art to the masses, or whether it just alienates people all the more. 

I have always been a strong believer that everyone should enjoy art. Of course, in general people already do if you consider films and literature, which is brilliant. However, other forms of  visual art tend to be neglected by the general public. To my knowledge, a lot of people either feel that they aren’t interested enough in these artworks to go out of their way to visit an exhibition, or that they don’t understand the terribly minimalist, contemporary artworks they tend to hear about.

Of course, most of the information people hear about visual art these days doesn’t necessarily reflect the majority of the artwork that’s out there. But try telling that to someone who has already made up their mind. As such, it made me quite excited to think that the Lumiere Festival could help amend people’s misconceptions about art. I had not heard about Lumiere London until quite recently. But from what I could tell, before going to see it for myself, the idea of having an outdoor art exhibition with artworks set up in very public locations seemed interesting. I felt that it was an event that had amazing potential to bring an appreciation of art to the masses.

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Unfortunately, I was quite disappointed with Lumiere London as a whole. Having closed down entire streets to vehicles for hours in order to set up and display a few of the larger art pieces, I feel like they could have done a much better job in filling up the street with installations. I understand that the idea was to have artworks distributed around the city. But I don’t feel like distributing them added anything to the overall experience. It might have even made it more frustrating, since a lot of the smaller pieces were hidden away in smaller streets, forcing some of us to go on hunts to find them. It got annoying when our hunts were in vain because some of the pieces were only set up much later on into the night.

What made it slightly frustrating for me was that almost everyone that was there seemed to be people who already enjoy the arts. The few people I noticed who had stumbled across it didn’t seem to understand what was happening and left.  I even heard a girl say to her friend, “I don’t get that. Maybe I’m not cultured enough, but I don’t even understand what it’s about”, when they saw Janet Echelman’s, 1.8 London. And another lady ask if the crowds were on a scavenger hunt when they were taking pictures of Tae Gon Kim’s, Dresses. Clearly not the exposure to the arts that I hoped people would be getting.

195 Piccadilly by NOVAK

195 Piccadilly by NOVAK

Although the event definitely made it more accessible for some people to see some art without visiting an exhibition or a museum, being there before the streets had been closed showed me that having some art pieces around didn’t really change much. Hundreds of people walked by the few pieces that were set up, without so much as giving it a second glance. Perhaps we need to think of a different way to pique everyone’s interest in art.

Overall, I’m sure Lumiere London did what it had set out to do with this event. There were some brilliant artworks displayed that I loved. And there were large crowds that had gone to see the event. It just failed to meet my unrealistic hopes that it would be able to get people to rethink their opinion of art.

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