Is the act of gambling itself a form of artistic expression?

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Saturday, April 20, 2024

Is the act of gambling itself a form of artistic expression?

We’ve looked previously on this site at how gambling and art can combine in several surprising ways and for good reason. However, can gambling itself be seen as a form of artistic expression? We take a look below.

Hand in hand
One way art and gambling intersect is by incorporating visual art into the layout and embellishment of casinos and other gaming establishments. These areas frequently have eye-catching lighting and vibrant colours that are intended to evoke a joyous environment. For those that have had the pleasure to visit The Ritz Club London or behold the Marina Bay Sands, there’s no doubt these establishments represent artistic expression that demands your attention.

This is no different online as sites use bright colours and a consistent color palette across the site and in their marketing to increase brand recognition. This is increasingly important because the industry is becoming crowded due to the multitude of options. Sites also sometimes specialise in specific areas such as games as, for example, online bingo is popular and this has led to new variants like Slingo. The competition is driving innovation because sites are always looking for ways to stand out, but having a clear theme and color scheme is crucial to achieving this.

Gambling and art can transect through the design of the equipment used with the quality and design of chips, cards, tables, and dice hugely important to discerning players. Also, let us not forget that there are many great works of art featuring gambling games from Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s The Cardsharps to Cassius Marcellus Coolidge’s Dogs Playing Poker.

The art of gambling
There are many ways to gamble and there’s no doubt that the internet and the rise of online casinos have transformed the industry. Gambling is most appealing when the game played involves talent, strategy, and etiquette of gambling people stick to. When these elements are present and adhered to, gambling can be a captivating performance that provokes emotion in those participating and witnessing the presentation. There’s a reason gambling so often appears in movies and plays, it builds tension and provides the opportunity for antagonists to go head-to-head with high stakes, but violence-free. From Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead to Martin Scorsese’s The Color of Money, gambling, in many different contexts, has the power to evoke emotion, trigger compelling plot mechanisms and present enthralling characters.

It should be stated that there are many different forms of gambling and the previously mentioned bingo is vastly different from poker. Gambling types are frequently differentiated based on skill or chance. A game is considered to be skillful if the outcome is primarily based on physical or mental talent rather than chance. Even if a game of chance might contain some skill components, luck typically determines the result more so. The general consensus is that the higher the degree of chance as a determiner of outcome, the lesser the artistic relevance. As such, poker can be considered the highest form of artist performance and games such as slots, are the lowest.

Some consideration should also be given to the opponents in each gambling game. With poker, it’s player versus player and there are many balls in the air with bluffing, table talk and mannerisms affecting the outcome of the game. Whereas, others games are played against the house or artificial intelligence, which creates a completely different dynamic.

So, is the act of gambling itself a form of artistic expression? Well, it’s complicated. There’s no doubt skill-based gambling can be an absorbing performance, yet, many would argue that due to the act usually being motivated by the desire to win money or other material rewards rather than to create or communicate something, it doesn’t meet the standard. What do you think?

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