In the first decade of the 21st century modern art became a popular phenomenon. Galleries stopped being the preserve of an elite, and artists communicated directly with a mass public. Who could have guessed, in 1998, that within 10 years an artist as serious as Doris Salcedo would be a well-known name thanks to a crack she’d made in a south London power station?
The groundwork for arts popular triumph was laid in the 1990s, when art made news with one sensation after another. It was outrageous and disreputable. That now seems a remote attitude. Art is accepted these days – even occasionally understood.
This century started with an event whose significance is still growing: Britain’s first modern art museum opened. Unlike New York’s lofty Museum of Modern Art, Tate Modern turned out to be a celebration of art now with mass appeal. Tate Modern is in itself the most important phenomenon in art now, anywhere in the world, because it has changed art’s audience, and destroyed the old order. The traditional preserves of the critic, the art historian, “the expert”, have vanished.
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