Over breakfast, Dan asked "do you think Thomas Kinkade's work will ever be in a real museum?"
"I hope so," I replied. "In fact, I'd like to curate that show, myself."
I told him what angle I'd like to take, and what context, and we mulled over speculative titles. I can already see the street-side banners:Happy Little Trees: Duchamp to Kinkade, Consumerism and the Commodification of Fine Art in the 20th Century.
Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol, Bob Ross, Thomas Kinkade
I think it's genius.
The key component of art, to me (and I mean art that makes a mark in history) is that it tells us something essential about the time and place in which it was made. And I think Kinkade's work makes two valuable points about our era: the shopping mall consumer culture of mass manufacturing, and America's current deep need for fantasy and nostalgia for idyllic times and places that never existed. It's not a flattering portrayal, perhaps, but it's completely relevant.
I'd also like to work into this lineup some aspect of the spiritual/devotional purpose of his art. Art has long served that purpose, commonly and throughout cultures. We no longer find the same comfort in gazing into the eyes of the Blessed Mary Mother of God, but clearly glowing cottages with picket-fenced gardens somehow, for many, serve the same purpose, today.
I just can't figure out who Kinkade's closest (20th C) predecessor would be for devotional painting of this type--I need another artist or two on the contemporary spiritual side to add to my exhibition, to make this link.