I occasionally get asked, “Why is art history important, anyway?” And frankly, I’m sometimes embarrassed to say that I don’t always have a great answer. Art history probably never saved lives, it didn’t cure cancer, and it hasn’t sent a man to the moon, but it does change the world.
I forget that most Americans carry around masterpieces of art history in our pockets. I’m talking about your iPhone, not your pocket lent. But given the right setting, I’m sure that could be a piece of art, too. While scrolling through our instagram feeds we don’t really think about the fact that we wouldn’t have the iPhone if we didn’t have Johnny Ive, and we wouldn’t have Johnny Ive if we didn’t have Dieter Rams, and we probably wouldn’t have Dieter Rams if we didn’t have the Bauhaus school, and we wouldn’t have the Bauhaus School if we didn’t have Walter Gropius, and I can make this list go on, but I’ll spare you.
I believe art history is important to anyone with even the mildest of interest in the appearance of the world around them. It’s no less important than shutter speeds or the latest lighting technique, and it’s an integral part of the modern artistic process. When a profession relies on your sense of sight (and vision), art history should somewhere become part of your profession as well.
We live in a world where everything is a remix, genuine creativity is next to impossible, and what we think of as creativity certainly doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Many things wouldn’t be as we know them if they didn’t have the inspiration of great history behind them.