Art is powerful. Human beings need art in order to survive. Through art we explore and provide greater meaning to the world. However, it is to be asked what is the price that we pay in order to have access to the cultural world. Could culture be perceived as a commodity? Gáspárik Attila, director of the Transylvanian Tompa Miklós Theatre Group, helps us to examine whether culture is a commodity.
Is culture a commodity? Why? Why not?
Gáspárik Attila: The question is a bit more complicated. In Romania, like anywhere else culture is sustained by both the government and private funds. To create an art product you need money. Thus the product gets to the market and the consumer pays for it. We pay for the cinema, theater and concert tickets. Furthermore, the entrance is not free neither to museums nor to galleries. In our areas, it is incredibly hard, or it is rather impossible to recover the money invested into high culture.
What is the role of culture as a commodity?
G. A.: The price of the cultural product must work as an engine, it has to generate an audience. If the art has a higher price it becomes more valuable.
Is it possible to sell high culture just as popular culture?
G. A.: Yes, however the sales strategy is certainly different. To watch a play directed by Bob Wilson you must buy the tickets weeks earlier, also an Almodovar movie is a great attraction all across Europe.
Do we pay a realistic price for high culture? If not, why is art defined as a commodity?
G. A.: In most cases, what we pay does not cover the real value of the art, however that is still a price. If something has a price, that is already a commodity. The products of high culture are unique, they cannot be repeated, therefore if we wish to be a part of the cultural experience, we must invest into it.
What is the role of advertisements in the commodification of high culture?
G. A.:The Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest has produced a great income in 2013 because of the Caravaggio exhibition, a few years ago, it happened to me that I couldn’t get into the Prado Museum in Madrid, because it was overloaded. These institutions and many others use advertising in order to promote themselves. What is more, Romanian TV and Radio channels must broadcast cultural advertisements for free.
How is it possible to prevent high culture from becoming simply a salable commercial product?
G. A.: I suppose this is the reviewers’ job. That is to say, realistic, authentic reviews should be the lifeblood of high culture. Thus, the government or other sponsors would only support those, who create satisfactory products.
Is it possible to create a brand for high culture?
G. A.: I don’t know what defines high culture. There are products and services on the cultural market, which help to explore the world in depth. The value of these creations is constantly growing. However, it is needless to mention, that this judgment is merely my personal point of view.
What do theaters sell?
G. A.: Theater sells plays, stories about itself, and about the universe. We are selling feelings which are personal, unrepeatable and limited to a certain time frame.
How is it possible to raise people’s interest in high culture?
G. A.: It depends on one’s education. Culture needs to be implanted in the child’s mind. Today’s greatest issue is the inability to decode culture. There are very few, who understand contemporary arts. We need to work a lot on this particular issue, however a great audience has the power to generate itself and create a greater thirst for high culture.