Lessons From An Artist
My wife and I took the subway out to the Brooklyn museum today to visit the Keith Haring exhibit. Anyone who grew up in the 80's remembers his cartoon figures playing a huge role in the MTV and street culture of the time - the Very Special Christmas album covers and the animated commericals with Run DMC holiday jams blasting. While I was very familiar with his work, I wasn't as well-versed in Haring's particular background or philosophy. Apparently, I was the only one who didn't know about his "art is for everyone" motto. One quote from the exhibition really stuck with me:
The public needs art -- and it is the responsibility of a 'self-proclaimed artist' to realize that the public needs art, and not to make bourgeois art for a few and ignore the masses.
I find I share Haring's big-tent sensibility, albeit with booze instead of art, in that I want it to be as inclusive as possible. Haring's art isn't technically complex, but it is poignant while still easy to enjoy - exactly what booze should be like! After getting back to the hotel, my wife went down for a nap while I continued to browse Haring's history on the web, which led to me typing up a blog on my vacation. I found another quote from him that also struck a chord with me:
People were more interested in the phenomena than the art itself. This, combined with the growing interest in collecting art as an investment and the resultant boom in the art market, made it a difficult time for a young artist to remain sincere without becoming cynical.
As we've seen with some of the big-ticket whiskies lately, the phenomenon surrounding their release has completely transcended the actual quality of the booze itself. Haring became cynical about this trend in the art world over three decades ago, in that his art was no longer affordable for everyday people (part of the reason he drew on subway walls - access for everyone!) yet wine and whisky drinkers are just beginning to come to terms with the fact that certain bottles, once readily available, will now forever remain out of their reach.
Haring was also a fantastic curator - organizing art shows for everyone and inviting whomever would listen. He really wanted as many people as possible to have access to his art and to be able to enjoy it without pretense. I find his approach quite inspiring and I've been brainstorming all day with ideas to make whisky and other great booze more available to K&L customers. Good booze, like good art, doesn't need to be complicated - and if it is I'm not all that interested in it. As a specialty retailer, it is my responsibility to realize that the public needs alcohol, and good alcohol at that, so I can't be stuck doling out only high-end prestige bottles for the few. We need to reach as many people as possible and make drinking as inclusive, fun, and exciting as we can - otherwise what's the point of imbibing?