There’s a piece in the N.Y. Times Sunday Magazine by Daniel B. Smith titled “What Is Art For?” If you ask me art’s only function is to be. But if you’re asking what purpose it serves, I’ve always believed the Tom Wolfe proclamation that its primary raison d’etre is to allow the art world’s benefactors — the stinking rich — to present themselves as hipper, wiser and more soulful than those who don’t support it, and thereby place themselves a notch higher on the social totem pole.

Some of the terminology and references from Wolfe’s The Painted Word (’75) are obviously dated, but the basic through-line is still dead-on.