Pressed to an extreme, inequities, both visible and symbolic, become a source of social outrage even if they are no worse than older inequities. Paintings matter to us as visual symbols of order and balance, of creative energy and innovation, so can we be surprised that seeing works of art withdrawn to the top of the oligarchic tower offends our moral sense? Even mediocre Picassos derive from a modern belief that a liberal civilization can produce social space for originality, for self-expression and unhindered invention. There is something admirable about a society whose highest values include such works of daring and imagination. And there is something disturbing about one in which there seems to be so little imagination left to find ways in which democratic horizons of human possibility that such art once symbolized can still be shared.
Adam Gopnik, “Art and Money”, The New Yorker (1 June 2015), 18.