British art and Big Money in 2013

This video from Britain is called ‘An important message about the arts’ – an animated video by artist David Shrigley.

It says about itself:

For more information about Save the Arts, please visit

Over a hundred leading artists including David Hockney, Damien Hirst, Anthony Caro, Howard Hodgkin, Anish Kapoor, Richard Hamilton, Bridget Riley, Antony Gormley and Tracey Emin have joined the campaign to make the case against the proposed 25% cuts in government funding of the arts.

The campaign is launched today with the release of a new video animation by artist David Shrigley highlighting the effect of the funding cuts and a new work by Jeremy Deller with Scott King. Each week the work of a different artist, created in response to the campaign, will be released. Mark Wallinger will present the next project.

Supporters of the artists’ campaign will be asked to sign a petition which will be sent to the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt. It points out that it has taken 50 years to create a vibrant arts culture in Britain that is the envy of the world and appeals to the government not to slash arts funding and risk destroying this long-term achievement and the social and economic benefits it brings to all.

The artists acknowledge that reasonable cuts and efficiencies are necessary but they fear that the 25% cuts being proposed will destroy much of what has been achieved and will have a particularly damaging impact on national and regional museums and their collections.

The campaign is being organised by the London branch of a national consortium of over 2,000 arts organisations and artists dedicated to working together and finding new ways to support the arts in the UK.

The costs of David Shrigley’s animation have been covered with a grant from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

Robert Dufton, Paul Hamlyn Foundation Director, said: “We are pleased to support this campaign and hope that its message is taken on board. As independent funder of the arts we are aware of the effect that cuts will have on many of the organisations we support. We stand to lose a great deal as a society if arts organisations are forced to stop the very valuable work they do.”

By Christine Lindey in Britain:

Bound by the box office

Saturday 21st December 2013

CHRISTINE LINDEY reflects on a year which saw cash-strapped galleries play safe

Cultural philistinism marched on in 2013 as the Con Dem government’s parsimonious arts funding was compounded by that of cash-strapped local councils, for which central government hypocritically disclaimed responsibility.

As public galleries and museum costs rose, so did entry prices. A preponderance of safe crowd-pleasers ensured box office takings and familiar mass media themes were used to entice the public.

Hence the National Gallery presented the painter of daily life in the Dutch 17th-century republic as Vermeer And Music, The Art Of Love & Pleasure. The British Museum beckoned with themes of dramatic death and sex with its Life And Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum and Shunga, Sex And Pleasure In Japanese Art exhibitions.

The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) focused on celebrity, glamour and royalty with Treasures Of The Royal Courts: Tudors, Stuarts And The Russian Tsars, David Bowie Is and its ongoing Pearls exhibition. Tracing the history of pearls since the Romans, the latter’s publicity uncritically foregrounds the jewel’s associations with “wealth, royalty and glamour.”

Created in conjunction with the Qatar Museum Authority (QMA) it exemplifies growing dependency on collaboration or sponsorship with foreign institutions and multinational corporations by public museums and galleries. The QMA also collaborated with the Serpentine Gallery for its Arab Arts season and sponsored Tate Modern’s Damien Hirst blockbuster exhibition, whose popularity benefited from Hirst’s fascination with morbidity.

The current Paul Klee exhibition launched the Tate gallery‘s three-year partnership with the enigmatically titled EY which comprises Ernst & Young Global Ltd’s member firms, which advise big businesses on assurance and tax transactions. The Russian bank Vnesheconombank sponsored the V&A’s Treasures Of The Royal Courts, while the Chicago Terra Foundation for American Art – which devotes approximately $12 million annually in worldwide promotion of its nation’s art – spent $550,000 on four British exhibitions, the National Gallery’s Fredrick Church Landscapes, Tate Modern’s Lichtenstein, the National Portrait Gallery‘s George Catlin, American Indian Portraits and George Bellows at the Royal Academy (RA).

Nations and multinationals sponsor art to promote a cultured and humane public image which can mask unethical and insalubrious values, policies and actions.

Cash-strapped museum curators must juggle the need to satisfy their sponsors’ sensitivities and calls for high attendance figures with their own, often conflicting desire to introduce the public to challenging and original art.

The liberal principle of curatorial independence is likely to be affected by a degree of unconscious or conscious self-censorship in the choice of themes and of their ideological interpretations, especially for expensive, major exhibitions. Since it is often only these which get mass media coverage, they are likely to be the most influential on mass audiences.

A partial solution is to introduce the public to hitherto lesser known non-western art and this trend expanded in 2013. Tate Modern introduced us to ambitious installations by the Sudanese Ibrahim El-Salahiand and the Lebanese pioneer of modernism Saloua Raouda Choucair.

Its current retrospective of the pared-down explorations of basic forms and ethereal materials by the Brazilian Mira Schendel are simply beautiful. Meanwhile the stalwart, non-profit-making October Gallery, which retains free entrance, continued to devote itself entirely to living, non-European artists.

While welcome, this trend carries the danger of a market-driven homogenisation of art which conceals a new form of cultural colonisation. As non-European artists consolidate their international reputations in the west they can loose touch with their own culture’s more socially integrated art.

However such exhibitions rightly undermine and question western domination of so-called international contemporary art while also widening our cultural horizons. Hence among the highlights of the year is the V&A’s ongoing Masterpieces Of Chinese Painting 700-1900.

Its displays of rare, ancient and well-preserved paintings on silk depicting exquisitely observed and delicately delineated deities, animals, plants, landscapes and scenes of everyday life are true eye-openers to a European public.

The Tate introduced us to the terrific Ellen Gallagher whose works explore and challenge stereotypes of Afro-American consciousness by wittily confounding borderlines between figuration and abstraction, craft and technology and mass imagery and painting.

Hats off too for imaginative curating of the Barbican Gallery’s Duchamp, Johns, Rauschenberg And Cage exhibition, and the intelligent curating of A Crisis Of Brilliance at the Dulwich Picture Gallery which showed the effects of social, gender and psychological conditioning on the professional success and failure of four Slade art students before and during WWI.

Brave curating brought the British communist artist Cliff Rowe to the public at Coventry’s radical Lanchester Gallery Projects. This formed part of a welcome growth in exposure of socialist art which included Tate Liverpool’s Art Turning Left and Raven Rowe’s survey of the 1970s Artists’ Placement Group, while the RA’s Honoré Daumier and George Bellows exhibitions proved to be the most exciting of the year.

Britain: We need a cultural revolution to roll back the corporate attack on the arts: here.

On March 16, a district court in Essen announced its verdict on art consultant Helge Achenbach, who enriched himself to the extent of millions of euros in the course of supplying modern art to extremely wealthy clients: here.

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