Fresh Take: Say goodbye to the elitist art scene. The future of art is street murals and graffiti.

As Cleveland artist Loren Naji sees it, the art world should be an inclusive place—with his recent CAN'T Triennial event embodying that philosophy. As FreshWater caps off its Arts & Culture-themed month, we asked Naji to share his thoughts on where the art world is headed...and why he thinks stuffy museums and exhibitions will soon be the stuff of the past. 

Haven’t we all politely stared at a work of art in a quiet, white-walled, track-lighted gallery, feigning interest and wondering how long to linger before walking away to avoid offending the aloof gallery director or being judged as ignorant?

Loren NajiLately, even the polite staring is becoming a thing of the past. These days, art venues are increasingly dependent on parties with free wine and beer.

Personally, I'm bored of installations with piles of rocks in the corner, strips of colored neon lighting, or exhibits with undecipherable hieroglyphic flow charts describing a set of seemingly random oversized photographs on slick paper. Yet some of these artworks fetch millions of dollars in the art market.

Clement Greenberg and his brand of Modernism—though outdated and ousted by Post-Modernists in the 1970’s—left one resilient offspring: elitism. Today, the 98 percent are still excluded by the “high-art” gibberish and jargon of curators, critics, and museum officials who choose to mystify art. Even artists themselves have to struggle to suck an ounce of meaning from intellectual art statements meant for the insiders.

Replacing this pompous elitism are rich murals, graffiti, and street art popping up everywhere. Just look at the great work being done in Cleveland by Stamy Paul and Graffiti Heart, as well as local artists and muralists like Steve Ehret, mr.soul, Bob Peck, Ridl, and more.

Graffiti Heart's recently unveiled mural in TremontThis resurgence of street artists is bucking the system and defying elitism while defacing corporate and downtown buildings. Now, even our white-walled museums are trying to ride this wave in order to keep afloat, but we only need the Internet to bring street art from Miami, Singapore, and around the world into our coffee shops and homes.

Like tattoos, what was once frowned upon is becoming a growing trend. We are experiencing more and more street art being funded by building owners and arts organizations. Once the nemesis of urban neighborhoods, street art is now bringing about vibrancy and regrowth. The urban landscape has become the canvas of our next art movement, and the smartphone has become our new gallery.

The art scene—once confined to the inside of curated museums and exhibits—is now global and accessible, without the gallery director there to judge the length of time you spend contemplating the vertical stripe on that eight-foot canvas.

Also, curated museums exclude most artists from exhibition. Our “smartphone museums” are now inviting everyone to be seen by this new world audience. The 98 percent are the new curators.

Art has always reflected the times. Along with our sprawling cities and growing urban street art movement, we have computer technology that is going viral itself, so to speak, and available to everyone. Modern computers can mimic drawing, painting, and even 3-D sculpture, but with the complex unfolding of technology (like paper snowflakes), the future of computer art applications is limitless.

Unlike football, art is not a competitive sport. It will be enjoyed by all as we like to enjoy nature and love. Fine art—produced and appreciated by all people—will be become more integral and blended with all facets of society and everyday life. It will, for the most part, leave the curated museums and be found in our landscapes, architecture, homes, bodies and technology. Elitism is becoming obsolete.

Let’s enter the era of “Obselitism.”

Loren Naji is a prolific Cleveland artist and sculptor whose work has been displayed at Cleveland Museum of Art, The NEO Show, Asterisk Gallery, Spaces, Pentagon Gallery, The Butler Art Museum, The Maryland Federation of Art, Phoenix Gallery in New York, and others. Currently, he runs a studio space in Collinwood known as The Church of Art, and he will soon tour the nation to bring awareness to homelessness with his live-in spherical sculpture, EMOH. Learn more about Naji here.

Signup for Email Alerts