Further to this discussion, and this one, here’s Kingsley Amis in 1985, describing the Arts Council:
Grants and bursaries from this detestable and destructive body in effect pay producers, painters, writers and such in advance. This is a straight invitation to them to sod the public, whose ticket money they are no longer obliged to attract, and to seek the more immediate approval of their colleagues and friends instead… Thus an organisation created to foster art and bring it to the public turns out to be damaging to art and cutting it off from the public.
And not coincidentally, we have a situation in which the supply of artists dwarfs the actual demand and in which the supposed patrons – taxpayers – are being billed for a product they all too often don’t want and didn’t ask for. Because ostentatiously leftwing dirt relocation and the tearing up of grass, along with the state funding of buskers, hookers and non-existent poetry, is now regarded by some as part of the welfare state. It’s what some grown men and women aspire to do with their time. And with the money you had to earn.
As noted previously, many times, there’s an air of grandiose entitlement, an urge to circumvent indefinitely the preferences of the public, who are nonetheless expected to serve as patrons, albeit patrons with no say in how or on whom their earnings are spent. And no right to ask for a refund should things go badly wrong. And so despite the obligatory egalitarian blather, what comes to mind is a caste system, in which the lumpen taxpayer is forced to bankroll self-anointed Brahmins, our cultural superiors, who profess their modish leftism while extolling the virtues of a non-reciprocal and parasitic relationship.
In the comments Sam points us to the latest from Polly Toynbee, in which she ostensibly counsels against the disdain shown by her peers for the new culture minister. Yes, he’s a Tory, and from a working class background. Oh, the indignity. But needs must. And note that Polly’s objection to the casual snobbery of her fellow Guardianistas is merely tactical:
The arts world didn’t react well to the appointment of the former banker Sajid Javid. Several writers led the great rumble of artistic disdain toward the new culture secretary… This seems to me a mistake, more likely to have Javid reaching for his revolver than falling for the charms of culture. Worse, the public might think it smacks of a familiar elitism that suggests the mysteries of the arts are not for the uninitiated.
So perhaps Mr Javid can yet be saved by his betters, despite the heathen’s lack of an “artistic hinterland,” as determined by Ms Toynbee. Readers may be entertained by Polly’s trademark fumbling with numbers and reliance on the fanciful, often baffling claims of Arts Council literature. Though if you’re pushed for time, commenter Charlie Suet points out that the Guardian’s foremost columnist is essentially “asserting that because The King’s Speech made money, we should subsidise mime artists in Brighton.”