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Reading 02: An Evolution in Art

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READING 02: An Evolution in Art

Art has taken a long journey from the cave art of prehistoric man to the gleaming art houses and showrooms of today. In this long journey, there have been numerous twists and turns. One major turning point in the relationship between art and society came about around the end of the seventeenth century. In the era prior to the seventeenth century, the artist had toiled predominantly on behalf of the church or in the employ of a member of the noble class who patronized the arts. However, after 1600, with the rise of the bourgeoisie, or middle class, the nature of patronage of the arts began to change. As this new class of prosperous financiers, businessmen, and bankers began to have an impact on the structure of society in general, it also greatly influenced the world of art.

The prosperous bourgeoisie loved to buy and collect possessions. It was through the augmentation of expensive and sometimes ostentatious possessions that the newly rich proclaimed their new status to the world. The introduction of the prosperous bourgeoisie into the role of patron of the arts had a number of effects. The art patron was interested in proving himself a man of taste and intellect and attempted to do so by collecting the great art of the past. He might also be interested in demonstrating his taste by discovering new and unheralded painters of the day who needed his support and introduction into the world of monied purchasers of art. He also often liked to view art that was reflective of the people in his life or of his surroundings; art, as a result, began to reflect less grandiose themes than the divinely religious art or the art of the nobility had in earlier times.

As the bourgeoisie grew and increasingly began to participate in the cultivation of the arts, simultaneous changes were taking place. It became less and less the case that art was created based upon a commission for a patron and considerably more common for paintings to be created and then offered as merchandise for sale. At the same time, it became increasingly necessary for middlemen to assist in enabling transactions, not between patrons and artists but between artists and the public at large, in order for the system to function smoothly. These middlemen were needed to perform functions that had been unnecessary in a society where art was the domain of only a relatively few patrons.

However, a system dependent on middlemen functioning between artists and the public develops obvious weaknesses in that the middlemen begin to take a role that is broader than merely gathering up art and making it available to the public. Instead, the middlemen become the arbiters of taste; the middlemen are the ones who decide which artists and pieces of art have value because they are the ones who decide which pieces of art should be shown to exhibitors in the case of agents, or put on display in the case of exhibitors, or shown to collectors in the case of dealers, or labeled as "good" or "bad" in the case of critics. The weakness of this sort of system is that the role of deciding which art and artists should be enjoyed by the public is not always the public's to decide. As the commercialization of art progressed, numerous examples came to light of artists who today are ranked among the world's finest but had originally been ignored by the middlemen in the world of art and potentially might not have had their works recognized by the public. Who is to know if any other potential artistic geniuses never had the opportunity to have their works seen because of this system.

      1. The phrase twists and turns in paragraph 1 could best be replaced by:  

      2. It is stated in the passage that, before the seventeenth century, it was common for artists to work for 

      3. The word it in paragraph 1 refers to 

      4. The phrase augmentation of in paragraph 2 is closest in meaning to 

      5. It is indicated in the passage that the rise of the middle class led to all of the following EXCEPT:

           a change in the world of art

           an increase in acquisition by the middle class

           an increase in artists from the bourgeoisie

           an increase in patronage of the arts by the middle class

      6. Which of the sentences below expresses the essential information in the highlighted sentence in paragraph 2?

           The new art patron preferred art that reflected the grandiose lifestyle that he had achieved.

           Art that was reflective of real people was the subject of religious art of earlier times.

           The prosperous bourgeoisie liked to reflect on the grandiose and divinely religious nature of art.

           Art began to reflect more everyday themes as a result of the patronage of the new middle class.

      7. The word cultivation in paragraph 3 is closest in meaning to 

      8. The phrase the arbiters of in paragraph 4 are most likely the ones who 

      9. It is implied in the passage that the author believes that

        the system of middlemen is really beneficial to the world of art

        the role of decision-making in art rightly falls to the middlemen

        as art is commercialized further, there will be less need for middlemen

        the public should decide which artists should receive public acclaim

      10. The phrase came to light in paragraph 4 could best be replaced by