Because the world is so corrupted, misspoken, unstable, exaggerated and unfair, one should trust only what one can experience with one's own senses, and this makes the sense stronger in Italy than anywhere else in Europe. This is why, Barzini says, Italians will tolerate hideously incompetent generals, presidents, tyrants, professors, bureaucrats, journalists and captains of industry, but will never tolerate incompetent "opera singers, conductors, ballerinas, courtesans, actors, film directors, cooks, tailors . . ." In a world of disorder and disaster and fraud, sometimes only beauty can be trusted. Only artistic excellence is incorruptible. Pleasure cannot be bargained down.
I found this quote while reading Eat, Pray, Love, and I love it a lot. (I hear the movie's awful, but the book is entertaining, funny, and occasionally quite moving.)
I don't want to expand on it much. But I think it relates to why beauty and art are important. It relates to things in the church and in the Bible where the beauty gets hidden because it feels irrelevant. It relates to a cynical generation who constantly feels like they're being lied to.