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  • Conclusion to Introduction to Commercial Art (1930)
  • Hamada Masuji (bio)
    Translated by Magdalena Kolodziej

The Development and Future of Commercial Art

In conclusion, commercial art has emerged from the disintegration of art and the aestheticization of commerce. I have previously discussed the style and aesthetics of commercial art. Now, what about its development? Since commercial art is art with a purpose, it pertains to pragmatically useful activities – but is that all? The reason commercial art constitutes a new and definitive art is that it has fully united the actual form of commerce – which is not commercialism, as in its true form commerce is simply distribution to many people – with the newly conceived form of production-art: commercial art becomes productive and simultaneously resists power when it merges commerce and production-art and moves them toward spiritual elevation.1 An art that is truly useful to society is thereby created, and the power of art manifests itself to society for the first time.

This may appear difficult to understand, but can easily be elucidated with further explanation.

Beauty borrows the form of produced objects so that it can reach the masses. In other words, posters, display windows, products, stage design, and printed matter – all these things created for a purpose are imbued with beauty that people can perceive through their senses. Display windows are beautiful, cars are beautiful, plates and containers are beautiful; they are endowed with a beauty resplendent to people (which is nevertheless also productive).

Le Corbusier's words on industrial aesthetics and architecture can be applied to all produced objects: "An architect satisfies our senses and activates a feeling of form. Similarly, he creates an echo in our hearts, shows us the order that should exist in this world, appealing to both our feelings and understanding. Indeed, through him, we sense beauty for the first time."2 In other words, we are able to extract a sense of [End Page 74] beauty from all things. Thus, when beauty is distributed in commercial form, it is distributed to the largest number of people. This is because commerce, which deals with the masses, is designed for widespread distribution. Moreover, commerce aspires to spiritual elevation. Therefore, the intention of its products has to concomitantly conform to the goal of spiritual elevation. In this case, spiritual elevation signifies the socialization of commerce and the recognition of life's value.3 In this way, all produced objects become elegant, refined, and dignified. The spirit of the artist and his aim become gradually purified. Members of society encounter many such objects and through them become spiritually purified. In such cases, the productive arts have a religious effect and bring about change. What is more, nobody can affect this process, no matter what their class or authority. People are inspired by the way in which beauty fuses the artist's spirit with his goals.

This situation is unprecedented.

In the era of royalty, there was royal art, and art existed at the will of the royalty. In the era of religion, art was Christian or, for instance, Buddhist, and functioned to agitate (for the purposes of propaganda or edification). In the era of aristocracy, art existed at the will of the aristocracy and took the form of pleasurable consumption. It was the same in bourgeois society. Until today, there has been no art that has occupied its own independent position and existed purely at the will of the artist's spirit, which takes the heart of the masses as its own.

However, such an art can now be realized.

Indeed, art today has removed itself from the irrationality of the ruling classes and become an art of the people and of artists for the very first time.

We might then ask, "In what form does such an art appear?" It reflects the mood of the masses and is produced in a fashionable form because the attitude of the masses directly defines the form of manufactured products. The fashionable products themselves constitute today's new form of art.

In bourgeois society, individualist, consumption-oriented art was the ruin of these fashionable products. They were indeed irrational, without purpose – that is, they were products of fashion purely...


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pp. 74-79
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