Caravaggio, Bruegel and Van Gogh all made studies of the poor in spite of rich patronage. Why aren’t more artists doing that now?
Art has a long history of entertaining the rich. From ancient artisans who made gold drinking cups for kings, to the artists of today who sell installations to plutocrats, art has been a luxury product, the servant of money. And yet it also has a social conscience. At this consumerist time of year, it is worth looking at some of the ways artists portray poverty.
So here we are in the 21st century. The forward march of labour ended some time ago. How do today’s artists portray poverty? Interesting question – for perhaps wealth has never been more raw and obvious in the art world.