Art Snobs Who Are They - Why Should Anyone Care?

By | 7:24 PM
If you are reading this, chances are you know an art snob.  There is nothing new about snobs, they have always existed and are found everywhere. Some are of a specific type and some stand out more than others. All the same, as I am starting out in this article, know that snobbery is common and nothing special.  So nobody should be upset by this article, except maybe a few vulgar snobs, as I draw focus on the particular traits and behaviors of the art snobs and how they serve the betterment or detriment of artists. In the course of this ranting editorial you may sort out for yourself if you the reader are an art snob. Also, if so what of it?  

The basic definition for a snob is “a person who believes himself or herself an expert or connoisseur in a given field and is condescending toward or disdainful of those who hold other opinions or have different tastes regarding this field.”(  Art snobbery is demonstrated in ungracious intolerance of creativity that does not conform to a narrow set of parameters.  Said parameters are usually along the lines of “your art is not as good as mine.” Art is art, how good it actually is has to depend wholly on opinion.  To pioneer into new ways of creating art or to make truly exceptional art, one must not be afraid to leave the safety zone.

Now there are also art snobs of the deeper variety.  The metaphysical types that believe all art has to have a message or symbolic meaning or else it is just decoration.  These type snobs seem to take all the fun and joy out of artwork.  It is true for some of them there must be a poem hidden in the imagery represented. There is nothing wrong with this principle, but to expect it from every artwork as a qualification of being true art, well if they cannot find the beauty in something simple that is their loss really. It would seem to me an exhausting level of snobbery to maintain.
elitist photo:  elitist.jpg
Now, art snobbery does not stop there, there are those snobs that have reached the pinnacle and can look down in disdain on an entire medium. Glassworks are a common target of the run-of-the-mill art medium snob.  Just because it is not what they use it is their mind that glass is not a legitimate artistic medium. I am sure you can think of a few odder notions among the snobs who are ever-grumpy about other peoples’ art medium choices.

If you have had enough exposure to the art community you know there are traditionalists that cling to their old trusty methods and mock any newer options as a lesser way of making art.  Think: Oil vs. Acrylic paint, Film vs. Digital photography, Acoustic vs. Electric musical instruments, all Visual Art vs. Digital art.  Sometimes there is concern with the removal of the pure human interaction with their physical work. There is something to be said for this, even though it is in our nature to embrace always new technology and art will reflect this.  But when painters mock watercolorists as only producing under-paintings they are admitting their minds are stuck in the time period when that was all that watercolors were used for.  If they don’t see true art in watercolor then they are showing a blindness in their snobbery. Another example would be photographers who give others working with green-screen backgrounds a hard time when really their snobbery is based in a rejection of using technology.  And in an instance where the newer digitally produced six-color giclee printing produces finer results than standard four-color lithographs, even though the newer printing from digital is better, this is not how a litho-snob would see things.

There is yet another type of art snob who will merely glance at pictures on the walls, with a rude and hateful expression as if they smell something bad.  This is really the type of snob that makes me wonder why they even bother showing up.  When it comes time to share their opinions, a snob will always consider that anyone that does not share the same skills automatically has invalid opinions about art.   Knowledge or expertise on the subject is the only thing that matters in their minds.  Some snobs will go so far as to tell other artists what to do with their work, or even say that a piece is “unfinished’ in their eyes. Art snobs feel that they possess additional senses or insights superior to “ordinary” people.  This translates as the snobs thinking they are the only ones with exclusive appreciation of what makes a true work of art.

Photograph snob girl by volkan kovancısoy on 500px
snob girl by volkan kovancısoy on 500px
photo: Pedro Ribeiro Simões on Flickr

Another thing that typically upsets an art snob is when the term “style” is used to describe the work of an artist.   Saying “approach” in place of saying “style “is the snob-tell here. The art snob enjoys immediately correcting someone stating an artist demonstrates a specific style by affirming that it is not style but reaction and approach to subject matter. They get in quite a tizzy when they hear the word “fine” art as well.  This is like a presupposition in their minds. This kind of self-righteous opinion can only come from a self-perceived walking encyclopedia of art. Otherwise, I can simply put it: they are mincing words, and not very well.

There are cliches among the art snobs; it is a bit like a group of severely opinionated art-gangsters. They are often seen wearing turtle necks with tight pants, have extreme contempt or admiration for French Artists, believe they hold such expertise as to never be impressed with any contemporary art pieces and usually have a background in wine snobbery – that could be the introduction to snobbishness.

Ultimately, the defining trait of snobs is that they are imitators. They adopt certain manners and world-views of a social class of people to which they do not by right belong. Snobs crave being members of an elite group and close ranks to those who do not conform.  So despite their rude behavior the snob is a pitiful, insecure person.  How do they serve the art world with their pretentious airs? A person who knows they are an expert does not need to patronize or act condescendingly towards others. The good bit that I draw from the existence of art snobs is this: they deliver a point for sake of comparison. As an artist it is important to believe in yourself and find reassurance in the fact that you're not just a sheep following the herd making the same art everyone else is making.  Even though they think they are special, the snobs represent the herd or herd-mentality, and without them, artists would lack a refined example of how NOT to be.

sheep photo: sheep sheeppage.jpg
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Rebecca said...

Perhaps you have met more than a few of the "Arte Critiques" or elitist attitude artist. Feel free to vent here, just keep it classy ;-)