Americans participating in the General Social Survey were asked by interviewers: "Please tell me which statement is closest to your opinion: 1. Art works should celebrate what is most beautiful about the world and the human spirit 2. Art works should freely express the artist's deepest thoughts and emotions, good or bad."
Here are the percent who agreed with the beauty option, listed by ethnic background (at least 25 respondents):
Percent agreeing that art should aim for beauty (N = 1,389)
American only 51.7
American Indian 43.1
There is a tendency for smarter groups to favor the "expression" school of art. Look how zero Jews (n = 25) prefer beauty. (This reminds me of the anti-Semitic belief that Jews are responsible for ugly art.) I suspect that more intelligent individuals are influenced by the elite view that beauty is old-fashioned.
I stand proudly with my less enlightened brothers. Who cares about an artist's "deepest thoughts and emotions"? Confessions by Jeffrey Dahmer would be fascinating, but it's not art. Now, if it's Nabokov putting sublime language into the mouth of a hebephile, that's art because the words are beautiful.
Beauty takes many unexpected forms, some of them very dark, so don't think that I am arguing for the Thomas Kinkade school of art. His paintings are beautiful like Smarties are delicious. I'm sure those of us who favor beauty would often disagree about what is beautiful.