Do tourists destroy artists?

I am thinking about conversations I have had with a number of artists based in different regions of Southeast Asia. It seems to me the big problem, anywhere you go -- from Bangkok to Bali -- is that most Westerners do not buy art thoughtfully. They all seem to want paintings of flowers or Buddha heads or people surfing. Of course, it's worse than that: relatively few Westerners seem to know -- or care -- about the difference between a mass produced object and an original piece of artwork. I once assumed it was only Americans and Australians who bought art like this. These days, many Europeans are equally thoughtless.

Maybe the tourists like the art, you say. If they like how it looks, so what? What difference does it make if everybody does not appreciate the distinction between fake art and the real thing?

It matters to the local people and the local culture. As a result of the thoughtless consumption habits of Western tourists, in shop after shop, many talented local artists have little choice but to spend their days making knock-offs. I have watched real, talented local artists put in such a position. And I find it rather sad.

Because these artists are not living up to their full potential. They have so much more to give than what is asked of them by the Western consumer.

The above is an extract from my most recent post at JOTMAN.COM.
Photo by Jotman of a painting bought from a Bangkok street artist.

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