Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fatuous defence of arts subsidy

Porcine artist Mark Wallinger, who has been basted in the dripping of arts subsidy for all of his professional life has launched a 'witty defence' of his livelihood. On the Save the Arts blog he has put up a version of the Fighting Temeraire suggesting what might have been the case back in Joseph Mallard William's Time.

Of course if Mr Turner had had to cut something from the painting I suspect it would have been slightly different, say,

Denuded certainly but near bearable.

There again there are certain works for which Mr Wallinger is famous that could do with a cut. Ecco Homo for example, funded by the taxpayer could lose a little something,


And lets not forget his desperately brave and groundbreaking homage to Brian Haw, also handsomely rewarded by the Taxpayer, Maybe a 100% cut would improve that one.

Save the Arts, states,
"It has taken 50 years to create a vibrant arts culture in Britain that is the
envy of the world."
Displaying for all to see the ahistorical and self obessed nature of those who sign their petition. Before public subsidy Britain was an artistic backwater it cries.


Indeed his choice of painting is instructive, voted the most popular painting in a British gallery in 2005 it is sypmtomatic of Turner. Nostalgic, imaginative and critically patriotic. It was a painting that he painted in 1839 for entirely private purposes, he kept it in his studio and on his death in 1851 he gave it to the nation.

Indeed Turner had only one major public Commission, the painting of the Battle of Trafalgar,

It was a critical flop and he never received another, preffering to work to his own wishes and with private commissions.

Could lightweights like Wallinger and a vast majority of those signing the petition survive without the support of friends who have access to tax subsidy and the Committees which dole them out? I doubt it, but it would be nice and instructive to find out.

The 'vibrant arts culture' they talk about exists only in their minds. The work they generally produce is obscurantist and deliberately elitist. Those who do not, and cannot understand their elaberate contrived artifice are dismissed as ignorant, whilst the money they provide is geedily grasped into the larded bosums of the art elite.

The poster for the campaign quotes William Morris,

Of course what is comedic about this quotation is twofold. Firstly 'Art for the Few' is exactly the sort of art that gets most public subsidy, that which is genuinely popular doesn't need it.

Secondly is that William Morris espoused through the Arts and Craft movement a touching (and financially lucrative) belief in the artisticness of the ordinary and the handmade. It was a profitable business and the objects it produced (despite his sincere socialism) were never affordable to the common man.

Nor are they now, except in twee pastiche. Liberty doesn't have a concession in Bluewater.


Eurogoblin said...

An interesting point and well made (I enjoyed the Photoshopped statue particularly). However, I do have a question: whilst I quite agree that it rankles a bit that subsidies are being spent on elitist art... isn't it precisely elitist art which needs subsidies the most?

Take opera, for example. I'm almost certain it couldn't survive on its own. Nobody goes to see the opera anymore, and without arts funding it would probably disappear. Isn't it worth preserving certain parts of our cultural heritage, even if they're elitist?

I'm not coming into this with a clear answer in my head, by the way. I'd just be interested to hear what you think.

Gawain Towler said...

Rather depends what you mean by Opera,

Garsington etc survive quite effectively without public subsidy.

Some of the national Opera bodies would be in trouble I grant you. But that maybe be because they have become gargantuan, thirsty beasts. Thus ACE or Lottery funding is needed to cover the debts, as much as the productions.

If you look at the history of teh Royal Ballet, it was founded not that long agao (I met the founder so it cannot be that old) and it survived before it was funded by the tax payer.

Personally I wouold have tax breaks for philanthropy in the arts - and elsewhere.

Of course a system like that would take some desining, but it cannot be worse than the present situation.

Indeed if tabreaks for the arts were introduced my strong belief is that the amount of money going into the arts would both increase and be broader based.

Budgie said...

Forty odd years ago I had the opportunity to buy a Turner sketch. This was when British painters were derided so the price was low. I fluffed it, and regretted it ever since. I couldn't possibly afford it now.

The Fighting Temeraire is immensely symbolic: the wooden wall of England towed to its grave by a _steam_ powered tug. A time of deep social and technological changes captured in one painting by the Master.