Public Policy Institute (PPI)

The Role of Art and Popular Culture in Promoting Democratic Principles and Social Justice

12 January 2023

One of the greatest contributions that art can make to society is to become a tool for critical thinking and social interaction (Gabriela 2016). Artists speak their minds about not only human achievements but also the horrors of the world. The artworks resulting from artists’ reflection provide a platform for humanity’s introspection.

High art, as Prof. Cecil Todd (1961) once remarked, is generally recognised by the educated and elite. High art, whether in sculpture, painting, advertising, fashion or other media, is usually intellectually engaging. Low art, on the other hand, is generally produced and presented in a manner that appeals to the immediate senses of ordinary people. Such art ranges from crafts, sometimes referred to as material culture, to simple forms of visual representations produced in a journalistic way. Popular art falls in this category. I, however, would like to caution that the divide between high and low art is a false construct, because, as Margaret Trowell explained, “these two categories stem from the same roots, which is man’s desire to create things of beauty as well as his need to use his products in the service of the community”.