The third great historical moment that organizes the relationship between art and society reflects the Modern Age in the West. Finding its fullness to give birth in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, coincides with the development of a more complex artistic sphere, more differentiated, freeing themselves of the old nobility and religious powers. While the artists gradually emancipated from the tutelage of the Church, the aristocracy, then the bourgeois order, art imposes itself as a system of high degree of autonomy in their own instances of selection and consecration (academies, salons, theaters , museums, dealers, collectors, publishers, critics, magazines), its laws, values, and principles of its own legitimacy. As the field of art becomes autonomous, the artists claim aloud a creative freedom to works that are accountable only to themselves and stop bowing to requests that come from "outside". Social emancipation of artists very concerning to the extent that it is accompanied by a dependency of a new genus, economic dependence on market forces.
But while art itself evidence its proud sovereignty in contempt for money and hatred for the bourgeois world, constitutes "commercial art" that, for profit, for the immediate and temporary success, tends to become an economic world as others to adapt to public demand and to offer products "without risk", the rapid obsolescence. It opposes these two universes of art: its Aesthetic, its public, as well as their relationship with the "economy". The modern age is organized in radical opposition between art and business, culture and industry, art and fun, pure and impure, authentic and kitsch, art elite and mass culture, avant-garde and institutions. A system of two antagonistic modes of production, circulation and consecration, which developed essentially within the strict limits of the western world.
This historic social setting brings a general overturn of values, invested art with a higher mission than ever. In the late eighteenth century, Schiller says it's for aesthetic and practical education of the arts that humanity can move towards freedom, to reason and to the Well. And for the German Romantics, the beautiful, the access road to the Absolute, is set, with art, at the summit of the hierarchy of values. The modern age is the framework in which it has made an exceptional sacralization of poetry and art, only known to be able to express the most fundamental truths of life and the world. While following the Kantian criticism, philosophy should renounce the absolute revelation and science should concentrate on enunciating the laws of the phenomenal appearance of things, you assign to art the power to know and contemplate the very essence of the world. Now, art is placed above society, tracing a new secular spiritual power. Not an area designed to give consent, but it reveals the ultimate truths that elude science and philosophy: an access to the Absolute, while a new instrument of salvation. The poet enters into competition with the priest and takes its place with regard to the ultimate revelation being: the secularization of the world was the springboard of modern religious art.
It must be added, however, that the sacralization of art held by the romanticism and symbolism was then fought fiercely for several avant-garde movements such as Constructivism, Dadaism and Surrealism.
Sacralization of art that illustrates so well in the invention and development of the institution of the museums. By extracting the works of their original cultural context, while cutting its traditional and religious use by not limiting them to private use and personal collection, but offering them to the gaze of all, the museum stages its specifically aesthetic value universal and timeless; becomes practical or cultural objects to be admired aesthetic objects, contemplated by themselves, by their beauty that defies time. Place of aesthetic revelation destined to make known unique, irreplaceable, inalienable works, the museum has a responsibility to make them immortal.
While desecrates cultural objects, endows them, on the other hand, an almost religious status, the masterpieces should be isolated, protected, restored, and testimonies of the creative genius of mankind. Worship space devoted to the spiritual elevation of the democratic public, the museum is marked by rites, ceremony, for a certain sacred environment (silence, recollection, contemplation), imposes itself as a secular temple of art.
Sacralization of the museum at the same time sparked the ire of avant-garde currents denouncing the symbolic institution of excellence of ancient art to destroy: "We want to demolish museums, libraries (...). Cemeteries Museums!..." (Filippo Tommaso Marinetti's" Futurist Manifesto "in Le Figaro, 1909).
The art supposedly provides the ecstasy of the infinitely large and the infinitely beautiful, does contemplate perfection, in other words, opens the door to experience the absolute, something beyond the ordinary life. Became the place itself and the ideal way of life once reserved for religion. Nothing is higher, more precious, more sublime than art, which allows, thanks to the splendor that produces, endured the ugliness of the world and the mediocrity of existence. The aesthetics replaced religion and ethics: life is only worth by beauty, many artists argue the necessity of sacrificing material life, politics and family life to the artistic vocation: it is for them to live for art, consecrate their existence to his greatness.
To assert its autonomy modern artists rebel against the conventions, constantly invest in new objects, appropriating itself of all elements of the real for purely aesthetic purposes. Enforces the right of all styling, all transmuted into art, are mediocre, the trivial, the unworthy, the machines, the resulting collages of chance, the urban space of democratic equality was made possible affirmation of equal dignity aesthetics of all subjects, the sovereign freedom of artists to qualify as art everything you create and expose. Given the absolute sovereignty of the artist there is no reality that can’t be transformed into work and aesthetic perceptions. After Apollinaire and Marinetti, the Surrealists launch the motto "Poetry is everywhere." By breaking with all heterogeneous function of art, to assert themselves in transgression of codes and established hierarchies, modern art set in motion a dynamic of aesthetization boundless world, any object could be treated in an aesthetic point of view, be attached, absorbed in the sphere of art only by decision of the artist.
But the ambition of modern artists was far beyond the horizon purely artistic. With the avant-garde born new utopias of art, taking this as the ultimate goal being a vector of transformation of living conditions and mentalities, a political force in the service of the new society and the "new man". As opposed to art for art and symbolism, Breton declares that it is "a mistake to consider art as an end" and Tatline proclaims: "The art is dead! Live art machine "by refusing the autonomy of art, not recognizing any value to the decorative aesthetic "bourgeois", constructivists declare the glory of the technique and the primacy of the material and social values on aesthetic values. The beautiful functional should eliminate the beautiful decorative and utilitarian buildings (homes, clothing, furniture, objects ...) to substitute the ornamental luxury, synonymous with decaying waste. Art should no longer be separated from society and just an enjoyable hobby for the wealthy: the aesthetics of the engineer should be able to reset a "complete design" completeness of the everyday environment of men. No longer the beautification projects of the living, but "the machine to inhabit" (Le Corbusier), responding to the practical needs of men and at minimal cost. The modern era sees well be argued, on the one hand, the "religion" of art, on the other, a process of desaesthetization produced very particularly for architecture and urbanism, condemning artificial ornaments and beautification of the building, advocating geometric constructions completely stripped, replacing the harmonious composition of classical gardens by "green spaces".
At the same time, in various streams a new interest in so-called minor arts arises. While multiply the criticisms leveled at modern industry - accused of spreading ugliness and uniformity - the flower beautification projects of the everyday life of all classes, the desire to introduce art everywhere and in all things by diffusion of the decorative arts. From Ruskin to Art Nouveau, William Morris to the Arts & Crafts movement, and then to the Bauhaus, modernist currents abound who denounced "the egoistic conception of life as an artist" (Van de Velde), the pernicious distinction between "Great Art" and "minor arts", advocating the equal dignity of all forms of art, a useful and democratic art sustained by the rehabilitation of the applied arts, industrial arts, arts of decoration and construction. No longer want pictures and statues reserved to a high social class, but an art that invests in furniture, the wallpaper, the tapestries, the kitchenware, textiles, architectural facades, on posters. With the democratic era, the art takes on mission to save society, regenerate the quality of the home and the happiness of the people, "change the lives" of all days: the Modern Style was baptized by Giovanni Beltrami as "socialism della Belleza".
The very aesthetics of the modern age followed, so the two main roads. On the one hand, the radical aesthetics of pure art, art for art's sake, freed from all works of utilitarian purposes, having no other purpose than themselves. On the other, precisely the opposite, the project of a revolutionary art "for the people", a useful art that makes itself felt in the smallest details of everyday-oriented and well-being of most life.
Indeed, the industrial and commercial world was the primary craftsman of modern aesthetization of the world and its democratic expansion.