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February 28, 2010

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Bob Smith

What they seem to mean by this is that businesses and wealthy individuals will make up the shortfall left behind when Jeremy Hunt and co have finished taking the Arts Council to pieces – in other words, a spectacular piece of wishful thinking.

In most of human history the only way most artists made a living was by appealing to the patronage of churches, businesses, and wealthy individuals. Why is it wishful thinking to believe it can't be so again?

Jonathan

"The arts in this country are a major financial success story. The income from creative industries generates revenues of around £112.5bn, and they employ more than 1.3 million people, which is 5% of the total employed workforce in the UK."
Which rather begs the question, 'why do they need subsidising?'. Surely if what you're doing is of such import, someone would pay you to do it?
And as for: "the only governments to systematically attack the arts have been the ones that also attacked democracy." I'm pretty sure that both the Soviet Union and National Socialist Germany were keen on The Arts, and I have a feeling that many of our subsidised art community might have felt right at home in one of them.

Anna

"the sole genuine reason for cuts is censorship of some form."

Haha. Hilarious. Holmes and his pals are being "censored" if they don't keep getting free money. Because they're THAT important.

David

“Because they’re THAT important.”

It’s the casual arrogance of it that makes me want to hand over my wallet. Clearly, these people are just better than us.

Franklin

The whole "the arts in this country are a major financial success story" angle has been trotted out in this country as well, which to me argues against public subsidy, not for it. Either the arts are generating secondary revenue that can be invested back into the original projects or there's no real relationship between the two. I suppose that one could argue that the circle of life starts with government arts subsidy, which generates secondary revenues, which the government then taxes and subsidizes the arts anew. But as you point out, this relieves artists thus subsidized to make anything that accounts for public taste. They probably view that as liberating. In a way it is - they are liberated from the hard work of making a compelling statement to an audience of outsiders and can yap away to the choir to their hearts' content.

carbon based lifeform

"A mature democracy should have the courage and the understanding to see the debt it owes its artists,"

What's amazing is Holmes's lack of gratitude for all the money he and his mates have taken from us. He thinks we should be thanking them.

David

“He thinks we should be thanking them.”

And the boldness of that claim - the chutzpah - suggests a sense of entitlement that’s both ingrained and commonplace. And previous Guardian pieces highlight just how pervasive the sense of entitlement is:

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2009/04/freeloading-and-snobbery.html

http://davidthompson.typepad.com/davidthompson/2010/01/here-let-me-lick-those-tears.html

Rob Spear

Thank goodness for the great recession. May it wipe all the scum off the streets.

SG

"Art, very simply, is how we comment on our world, how we speak truth to power."

He actually said that seriously. What a smug fucking jackass.

Wm T Sherman

What about funding for standup comics? They're artists too. Comics are how we speak goof to power.

TG

"The benefits of the arts are such a no-brainer, so obvious"

Why can't he put those benefits into words then?

"Art, very simply, is how we comment on our world, how we speak truth to power."

Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Rubens, etc never produced art then?

Anyway, if art is speaking truth to power, then art funded by those in power can't really be art, no? Unless that art is telling truths those in power want to hear, but what's the point of that?
But, ok, if art is speaking truth to power and if that's a good argument to subsidise it, then I'd suggest our host applies for subsidies by the Arts Council for this blog. He's done a far better job of speaking truth to power with this blog than most of the artists who get that funding after all.

Gaw

@15.33 'Thank goodness for the great recession. May it wipe all the scum off the streets.'

Surely we want to sweep them onto the streets?

Spiny Norman

On the other hand, if the Austrian government had been as generous with arts subsidies as this Holmes fellow demands here, a certain Adolf Schicklgruber might never have been a "failed" artist and gone on to seek revenge against those who he believed had wronged him...

o_O

WTP

We're all just Morlocks to their Eloi. Problem is, we (OK, I) never get to eat any of them. I was on a flight this weekend and the in-flight magazine for USAir had an article reviewing a new book by Robert Rowland Smith, "Breakfast with Socrates":

http://www.usairwaysmag.com/articles/breakfast_with_socrates/

In it, the reviewer described history’s greatest ideas as coming "not just from philosophy, but from psychology, sociology, and politics". Somehow it appears Gutenberg, Galileo, and Newton didn't have any of history's great ideas...the poseurs. It goes on to reference Marx and the usual suspects in high regard. How long can a culture continue to build on a foundation of castles in the air? The article at one point refers to a Michel Foucault. I got curious as if he was any relation to the French physicist. Not recalling the man's first name, I looked up Foucault's Pendulum on Wiki, what do I get but a 1988 novel by Umberto Eco about some sort of medieval conspiracy plot that appears to have been the inspiration for "The Da Vinci Code". We are all doomed.

Sam

"what it gets in return – economically, socially, aesthetically, philosophically – is almost immeasurably greater than that which it dispenses."

What was subsidized art's last great contribution to philosophy?

Vlad the Impala

Maybe Holmes should write a play about how fortunate the mouth-breathers are to have such enlightened heroes to give our tithes to.

I'm sure that play would sell out.

David

One of Mr Holmes’ recent artistic ventures is a documentary, “Perpetual Peace,” that includes interviews with such “peacemakers” as Tony Benn, Karen Armstrong, Harold Pinter and George Monbiot. As you might imagine, it’s woolly, pretentious and at times objectionable.

http://www.public.tv/channel.php?channel=FZ4M-Q2C5-LZBA-ZO30-BIRT&group=3FNP-TTB6-KEAI-ULL3-J3I1

In the film’s publicity blurb, Mr Holmes talks about “making ethically committed work.” Morality, as he conceives it, is apparently important to him. Yet, like so many of his peers, Holmes is adamant that other people should be coerced into subsidising his art, and the art of those who presume as he does. What Holmes and his colleagues are advocating, or demanding, is a confiscation of other people’s money and therefore other people’s freedom. (Though of course they take great care to avoid such unambiguous phrasing.) And expecting other people to bankroll your latest production against their will and regardless of its merits doesn’t sound terribly ethical to me.

clazy

"The arts in this country are a major financial success story." So why do they need government assistance? "All this is achieved, contrary to mainstream assumptions, with minimum state support. To take just one example of cost efficiency, the whole of UK theatre received £54m in subsidy in 2008. It paid back nearly £75m just in VAT in London alone. That's quite a return." That's also quite an assumption, that the VAT is due entirely or even significantly to subsidized work.

ojo

"includes interviews with such "peacemakers" as Tony Benn, Karen Armstrong, Harold Pinter and George Monbiot."

It's a comedy then?

David

“It’s a comedy then?”

Well, the names above don’t inspire confidence. Pinter, whose politics seemed defined by an irrational hatred of America, was a proud supporter of George Galloway and an equally proud champion of Slobodan Milosevic. He also described Britain as a “dictatorship,” which shows his sense of realism and rhetorical proportion. Monbiot’s authoritarian fantasies have been detailed here several times. Likewise Karen Armstrong, whose dissembling and attempts to rewrite history are contemptible.

I suppose it could be inadvertently funny, in much the same way Holmes’ article is.

Firehand

"A tax-supported artist is a government whore."

Lazarus Long

jwpaine

WTP: Jeezus, that's brilliant! I hereby announce the formation of the Morlock Party and eagerly await the first of many meals. Sic gorgiamus allos subjectatos nunc!

gebrauchshund

For some reason this -

"The benefits of the arts are such a no-brainer, so obvious, that the sole genuine reason for cuts is censorship of some form. In the 20th century, the only governments to systematically attack the arts have been the ones that also attacked democracy."

Made me think of this -

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLHFdduVDVg&feature=related

Anna

David, have you read this?

"Shabby little fringe venues or shoestring-run avant-garde groups - invariably the wellspring of artistic innovation - will be left out in the cold."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/mar/03/arts-giving-is-a-bad-show

David

Anna,

Yes, thanks, I saw.

“Shabby little fringe venues or shoestring-run avant-garde groups - invariably the wellspring of artistic innovation - will be left out in the cold.”

Ms Higgins claims that publicly subsidised fringe groups are “the wellspring of innovation” as if it were inarguable. I’d say the vast bulk of artistic innovation – real innovation - happens somewhere else. Specifically, within the commercial sphere – in film, advertising, television, music, games design, etc. And Ms Higgins does the same sleight-of-hand as Jonathan Holmes, presumably in the hope that nobody will notice:

“With that tiny bedrock of public spending, the creative industries are growing by 4% a year.”

Like Holmes, she deliberately conflates taxpayer funding for “little fringe venues” and “avant-garde groups” with the entire “creative industries,” which are overwhelmingly *commercial* in nature and not dependent on Arts Councils or coercive public funding. The casual dishonesty of these people doesn’t help their case.

sackcloth and ashes

'In the 20th century, the only governments to systematically attack the arts have been the ones that also attacked democracy'

I notice that this statement is not followed by any actual supporting examples.

David

AC1,

“Doesn’t need a subsidy = success.”

I think Mr Holmes and Ms Higgins are using a different, less obvious logic:

I’m important, therefore my art is important, therefore my art needs subsidy, therefore my art is important, therefore I’m important.

It’s rather like how insecure and/or talentless artists refer to what they do as “the work,” as if the word “work” bestowed gravitas and value.

sackcloth and ashes

The funny thing is that in totalitarian and authoritarian states where art is government-sponsored (and controlled), it's the mediocrities who stick to the party line that prosper, at the expense of more talented but less slavish minds.

AC1

David,

I've often said how Narcissism seems to be prevalent in the new left.

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