ARH 204 MCCPC Roman Art Conventional Exhibitions & Contemporary Art Discussion


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Discussion Question #11
History books, academic courses, and major museums are all quick to emphasize Roman artworks that had been created for the elite classes. Lavish
palaces, gold ornamentation, marble statues of heroic figures triumphing over their enemies – these items are doubtlessly extraordinary, and they strike
awe in their viewers. Scholarship prefers to focus on such matter, and they are topics that intellectuals love to debate. Institutions pride themselves on
how many ritzy accoutrements they own, as these both compel patrons to come in the doors and donors to contribute money for additional acquisitions
of such caliber.
Most Romans, however, would have never come into contact with many of these objects. True, they doubtlessly saw some high-end sculptures during
the course of their lives, and perhaps they would have beheld gilt spoils of war during triumphs. But for the vast majority of the populus Romanus, the art
that they interacted with on a daily basis was much less glorious. From simple terracotta plaques to small clay figurines to humble household
contrivances, the preponderance of articles created by and for Romans was basic and unimpressive. And because they were unremarkable, historically
they have been discarded, neglected, or simply omitted from the record.
Modern researchers are attempting to address this situation by focusing more on the everyday and less on the exclusive. Some claim that conversations
about the trappings of the 1% have been exhausted, and there is not much left to say on the matter; others argue that, by continually focusing on the
prestigious, it reinforces an artificial hierarchy of what constitutes “good” art. This has resulted in museums slowly introducing increasing numbers of
“common” artifacts into their displays. The emphasis on the more ostentatious is still there, though. Bearing in mind that people typically want to see
that which bedazzles them, a question – how important is it for a museum to give equal or greater weight to the conventional art of Rome? Should a
certain percentage of the material exhibited be dedicated to any one class or group, and, if so, how much?

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