Culture and the Arts are declining with their once strongest demographics: Educated, upper middle class and up people. On the other hand, donor contributions increased by 9.2% in 2014 (over 2013).
The arguments are made that entertainment and democratization are major factors in this.
At the Museum of Fine Arts in Saint Petersburg, Florida there is a show of Japanese prints. The ones prior to Modernism. There are portraits, representations of mythological stories, great romances, locations, landscapes and breaking news/important current events.These prints multi-tasked well beyond the aesthetic.
Medieval Art did too. In Europe and through Christiendom, the Gospel story was a common meme, known by everyone, even illiterates. The Art that the common man was exposed to, mostly in churches and government buildings, related images from those stories. The Art in church stained glass, sculptures and paintings portrayed apex dramatic moments from which believers easily discerned the characters and story depicted. This integrated the world of the viewers and simultaneously provided religious entertainment.
With the Enlightenment and thereafter, Western cultures became more secular and the functions once served by religion and Art were separated. This division is still ongoing. The democratization of the means of producing Art continues, with the number of people who file taxes as artists to Instagrammers all over the world.
With this egalitarian environment not only is everyone an artist, but also a critic. Right now, less than 10% of the number of critics employed in 1975 exist. A lot of people see this as a sign of decline in the quality and output of Art. The amount of Art has certainly increased, enabling anyone with a smartphone to partake of the benefits of making, showing and selling work.
Art Fairs have become the new ephemeral bastions of Art. They dominate the Art world. Here in Florida, artists make the pilgrimage to Art Basel exactly like crazed sports fans to the Superbowl, and most voice fantasies of being in Basel. The few that have spent the time, effort and money to be in a satellite fair that I know have fared miserably, or broken even at best.
Art Fairs are all about the 1%-ers who have the place to themselves before the hoi polloi swarms, and they, still caught in the aftermath of Modernism, thrive on innovation, not quality.
There is now a Pilgrim's Road of Fairs all over the world, a Silk Road to the various markets. Auctions have also risen in prominence (and sales records). A yawning gulf of income inequality has widened between those at the top and all others.
The art world is rapidly evolving and shifting along with the rest of the culture. The old models have become obsolete, much to the consternation of those who came up through them and thought they would be around at least through their lifespan. The brick and mortars will still be around at the local level, particularly as nurseries for emerging artists in the lesser local markets.
Great Art continues to be made every day. Most of it will go unrecognized.