influences on art
tourists have had on art throughout the world is known and
written about by many.
B Steiner (1994) has written on these influences on African art,
the comodification and circulation of African objects in the
international art market. Aboriginal art
in Oceania has also been a popular topic in this discussion.
Raymond Firth says that “the greatest influence for
change in exotic art has, of course, been the impact of industrial
society from the West. In
the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Oceanic art, for
example, lost much of its dynamic quality: its forms were
flattened, its design impoverished, its inspiration faded.
Imitation at a commercial level has often occurred, with
development of tourist art, souvenir art, airport art” (Firth
on the other hand will discuss the situation in Iceland’s
neighbour islands Greenland
and the Faroe Islands. These
three islands are often visited as one by tourists and categorised
together in travel guide books.
The situation on the islands are similar from the point of
view that they are all relatively new tourist spots and are colonies or
former colonies of Denmark.
They are also countries inhabited by a population which has
acclimatised to the north. All
three countries depend mostly on fishing or hunting as cultivated
land is very scarce in all three countries.
The increase of the tourist industry has thus been welcomed
to these areas.
differs from the other two as it is the only island which has
indigenous people. Iceland
and the Faroe Islands have only been inhabited since the arrival
of the Vikings.
is a neighbouring island to Iceland with a population of only
56.000 though it is 20 times bigger than Iceland.
Greenland like Iceland, has had a recent increase in
tourism, which has influenced the economies in both of the
countries. G. Enel is
a French anthropologist who has written about art, artists and the
art market in the small East-Coast village Kulusuk.
He says that the tupilaq
were formerly associated with shamanism but have taken the form of
impersonal figurines. Traditionally
they were made out of driftwood but today they are made out of
caribou horn and walrus tusk for the tourist market (Enel 1981:
128). No one has ever
found a genuine tupilaq
so the figures the artists are making today are made to please the
tourists who buy them. It
soon proved that the more bizarre and alarming the figure
appeared, the more fascinating it was to the European purchasers
(Kaalund 1983: 67).
Enel also says that opportunities for work are limited on
the east-coast, so the carving and selling of tupilaq
to the tourists is welcome for one’s daily needs.
The increase of craftsmen from the year 1966, when there
where 22 craftsmen in the area, to the year 1976, when the study
was done, was over 400% or 84 of the 121 adult men in the village
had become craft makers. In
1966 all the craftsmen were also hunters or had another
profession, as the tupilaq
making was only a supplement to the household.
In 1976 a few of them had become full time craftsmen (Enel
and 1999 when I visited the village of
Kulusuk this number had increased even further and numerous men had
craft making as their main source of income.
is obvious the influences tourism has had on Greenlandic art.
The concept ‘art’, Kaalund states, “in the sense of
non-functional decorative or art objects, was unknown in the old
Eskimo society, so thoroughly where ornamentation, carving, and
colour integrated into daily life and connected with implement
culture and use in cultic life.
Only in recent times did the Greenlanders formulate a word
for art: eqqumiisuliaat,
meaning something made that is strange.
It was when Europeans began giving money for a figure or a
drawing and the demand increased that this concept arose”
(Kaalund, 1983: 89). Among
the Eskimos is no such thing as ‘art for art’s sake’.
Rather, art is for the sake of the people (Kaalund 1983).
situation in the Faroe Islands is somewhat different as the
Faroe Islands did not have any indigenous people.
Young Faroese artists go to Copenhagen, and occasionally
Oslo and Bergen, for their education, and so Faroese art has
become a branch of the Scandinavian tradition.
Thus, an outsider may soon become familiar with Faroese
art, although certain aspects of it may seem unique.
It may be in the Scandinavian tradition, but it has
developed under exceptional conditions, just as the Faroese may be
called a Nordic country living under exceptional conditions (Føroysk
List, 1983: 5). The
isolation of the people of the Faroe Islands and the lack of influence from the outside, inevitably leads to a kind of inbreeding
among the public, the critics and the artists (Ibid.: 13).
have seldom seen so much art as in Thorshavn,” says a traveller.
In so many places and in the homes of so many people.
The work of
the Faroese artists is seen hanging everywhere, in public
buildings, schools, banks, businesses and in private homes.
The regular collective exhibitions of Faroese art draws
large audiences, who like to buy and discuss art, at least Faroese
art. “I have also
seldom seen so little trashy art, no shallow graphics, cheap
posters, amateurism or semi-amateurism on the walls in people's
homes in a small Scandinavian town” (Ibid.:14).
And yet despite the support of the public, there is a lot
of pessimism among the artists themselves.
They are doubtful of the future of Faroese art and they
fear that the small-scaled nature and isolation of Faroese art may
prove to be insurmountable handicaps.
In the long run, they say 50,000 people and a couple of
dozen artists will not be able to sustain a living artistic
there is a danger that it might stagnate and die from lack of
nourishment. At the
same time, it is difficult to see how things could go so wrong
while the need is so great (Ibid.: 15)