Lawrence Alloway's The Arts and the Mass Media

In The Arts and the Mass Media, Lawrence Alloway describes the reasons behind the repulsion that some intellectuals have toward “mass art,” a term that Alloway applies to art that is more popular or mainstream than the fine art appreciated by high-art critics like Clement Greenberg. One reason may be that “the elite, accustomed to set aesthetic standards, has found that it no longer possesses the power to dominate all aspects of art (Alloway, 116).” The elite minority, who have wielded power by dictating which art should be promoted, have lost some of this power to the majority. There is no single set of aesthetic standards that dictates content in mass art. I enjoy this idea that art has been freed from elitist control and given to the disenfranchised, although Alloway recognizes high-art as an area that can still exist and be guarded by a minority who seeks to defend it from mass art’s perceived intrusion.

The article also highlights the virtues of mass art, particularly its ability to change with and connect to contemporary culture. Alloway points to historical conventions to differentiate fine art from mass art, stating, “Sensitiveness to the variables of our life and economy enable the mass arts to accompany the changes in our life far more closely than the fine arts which are a repository of time-binding values (117).” It is therefore the lack of subservience that mass art has to these time-binding values and conventions that allows it to relate to culture in a more immediate fashion. Overall, I found Alloway’s article to be an excellent response to Greeberg’s grievances with popular art as kitsch. Regardless of this classification, the virtues of mass art can not be denied: it is both a manifestation of art liberated from an elite minority and an art that lives and breathes in the dynamic framework of contemporary culture.