Art for Art's Sake

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Cover image for  article: Art for Art's Sake

"The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls," said Pablo Picasso.

For those who know me well, or for those who have read my posts, I often refer to the critical, yet delicate balance of "art and science" of the media industry. Today, any industry professional must understand – if not intrinsically be able to channel – both.

Yet only art alone can be transcendent. Viewing a piece of artwork can trigger an experience so beautiful or profound that you can't even find words to describe it. Art elevates what it is to be human. It nurtures the best within us. It offers us what novelist John Updike described as "a certain breathing room for the spirit."

That power is why my wife and I are proud supporters of the Whitney Museum. We were first introduced to the Whitney family by Fern and Lenard Tessler — Fern is a trustee of the museum —and in the past year I'm proud to say we have become more actively involved in this extraordinary resource. It was at the opening gala for the Whitney's breathtaking new home on the West Side of Manhattan that I experienced one of those truly transcendent, Updike-like moments.

Actually, several moments. Which is exactly the reaction the extraordinary new space designed by architect Renzo Piano is intended to create. Nestled near the Hudson River in the Meatpacking District, the museum features four terraces, floor-to-ceiling windows, computerized shades that adjust to the light of the sky, breathtaking views, and of course, equally breathtaking works of art. Due credit must be given to Adam Weinberg, the Alice Pratt Brown Director of the Whitney Museum, the entire professional staff, and the Trustees and contributors for their vision and leadership in ultimately getting such a marvelous structure not only funded, but built.

The first exhibition features 600 works by 400 artists over the past 115 years selected from the Whitney's renowned permanent collection and entitled "America Is Hard to See," a nod to a poem of the same name by poet laureate of Vermont and American treasure Robert Frost. It is an amazing immersion.

I also believe that the new Whitney functions as a marvelous metaphor for our industry circa right now. "America Is Hard to See," after all, celebrates human diversity, explores the notion of connectivity and utilizes myriad mediums in infinite expressions. Add a buzzword or two and that could just as well describe the modern media ecosystem.

There are brands that understand this power -- brands that do art for art's sake. For obvious reasons, I'll take the diplomatic high road and not name any. We all know who they are because they have wings or a bull's-eye.

They are the brands who understand, as Frost said, that "freedom lies in being bold." They recognize and celebrate both the art and the science of the media business. Yet they also know when creativity should be unharnessed from commerce, when to give their consumers time to wash the dust off their souls.

When that happens, as Piano himself exclaimed at the Whitney's official opening, "Mamma mia! What a joy!"

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