Jay Leno, Bill Mahr and CNN have all at one time or another conducted surveys out in the street of typical Americans. They ask to name the Secretary of State, Vice President or the Governor of their home state. Much to my amazement, the vast majority of people surveyed don't have a clue ... AMAZING!
As most of the visitors to my Blog are aware, I have been a resident artist at The Torpedo Factory Art Center in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia since 2001. We are a 76,000 square foot art center on the Potomac River right across from Washington, D.C. We are the major draw to historic Old Town Alexandria. We attract nearly 500,000 visitors from all over the U.S. and throughout the world. I suppose it is safe to say that we are THE premiere art center in the U.S. and maybe worldwide.
Over the past few weeks I have been doing a little survey on my own. On a typical week I probably attract 100-150 individuals. I have been asking if they could name 5 famous photographers and or 5 famous artists ... sculptors, painters, etc. Out of nearly 100 very informal surveys, the predominate answer for "famous photographers" was Ansel Adams. Maybe 10% of the people knew specific photos, but not the name of the photographer. Maybe 50% knew of Annie Leibovitz. Names like Edward Weston, Richard Avedon, Sebastião Salgado, Keith Carter or Michael Kenna drew blanks. In fact, many visitors to my studio carry expensive cameras and claim to be photographers!
When it came to naming "famous artists," the overwhelming majority answered, Picasso, Van Gogh, DaVinci, Renoir, Rubens and Rembrandt. Most never heard of Willem de Kooning, Chuck Close, Richard Diebenkorn or Jackson Pollack or Damien Hirst for that matter.
What does this say about the public's knowledge of art? Do we only care about the Kim Kardashian, Beyonce and Duck Dynasty ... I guess so!