i. #savethecass #savethecoronet #savethecurzon
Culture and London, as relationships go, I would say the signals are clear: HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU.
The endless crises – the Black Cap, Madame Jojo’s, Candy Bar, all gone, studios through Bermondsey, Deptford, Bethnal Green make way for luxury living, Crossrail demolishes every music venue in its path (those it misses surely to be picked off by Crossrail 2) – and though art is not going to die, it is disturbing that these attacks are on culture at a grassroots level, where it matters most, as something humane and accessible.
I, therefore, propose a simple revolution: fund artists.
Fund artists – not museums, public galleries, arts councils/charities/foundations.
Give an artist 30K. They will make so much work, create culture, representing their community in a way no museum, education or outreach scheme, could ever hope to do. And they will live off that 30K for so fucking long.
30K is a paltry sum to today’s institutions.
Museums housed in palaces which have grown – and keep growing – too expensive, too big, too precious.
Curators, directors, arts administrators, programmers.
Controlling the means of distribution and, only very occasionally, allowing actual money to reach artists. Regulating art-making into a needlessly slow and expensive process, championing the few artists who function in their system. Establishment Artists. Whose art fills embassies and decorates the pages of your passport.
Upholding the culture of culture leads to less money for fewer artists. And, in the grand tradition of art imitating life, this means greater inequality and less diversity in the artists we see.
ii. Victorias and Alberts
As the Victoria and Albert Museum finalises its Dundee franchise and readies another for the Olympic Park, the machinery of studies, proposals, architectural models and construction makes many people rich.
But not artists.
The V&A does not make art. The V&A only puts an expensive frame around art – artists in Dundee and the Olympic Park do not need the V&A.
Imagine: all the art that could come from the millions drawn into the vortex of these Grand Projects.
Museums and public galleries are out of touch. They are not connected to the artists in their city. Nor do they develop them.
Why should artists relate to these temples which exist to propitiate fickle gods like BP and Credit Suisse and a Mephistophelian pantheon of other ‘friends’ of art?
Tate spending a zillion pounds on a staircase, V&A bosses awarding themselves bankers’ bonuses for the Alexander McQueen exhibition (a practice known in other fields as “merely doing their job and not fucking up”), Gabriele Finaldi taking a bumper relocation fee on top of his bumper salary as director of the National Gallery.
I spend days trying to determine if I’m more repulsed by their vainglory and profligacy or their ethical bankruptcy. They use public money to emulate the splendours of the commercial art world.
Damien Hirst can build himself a gallery. Larry Gagosian can build twelve galleries. They can do what they want: IT’S THEIR MONEY.
iii. Public Private Partnerships
Why do museums support artists who can put on their own shows in their own galleries? Victoria Miro Gallery was packed for its exhibition of Grayson Perry tapestries – so why should the William Morris Gallery or National Portrait Gallery give him a platform?
Have some private endeavour, Grayson!
‘Scapegoating Pictures’ by Gilbert and George at White Cube, what a show. Sarah Lucas’s residency at Sadie Coles HQ? So much more fun than her dreary Whitechapel retrospective. Same is true of Damien Hirst. He puts on spectacular shows. He makes art in a white cube just look so damn sexy. But that Tate retrospective…super dull.
Returning to vainglory and profligacy and ethical bankruptcy, the conductor Sir Simon Rattle made it a condition of his becoming Musical Director for the London Symphony Orchestra that he get a new concert hall. The Establishment agreed that a new concert hall for London was much needed and parachuted in Sir Nicholas Hytner, former director of the National Theatre, to make a feasibility report on a potential location for this hall.
That report cost one million pounds.
Was it a vellum illuminated manuscript, written in HRH Prince Michael of Kent’s Royal Blood? How many symphonies written, instruments bought, lessons taught could have been funded with the money spunked ON A FEASIBILITY REPORT?
The gilded report speaks of creating a ‘cultural hub’. I do not want culture in a hub. I want culture immanent throughout a living city. That is why I say #savethecass #savethecoronet #savethecurzon.
Cultural Hubs are the product of ideologies which believe in segregation. Today my friends show work in cars, car parks, function rooms, public toilets, laundrettes, kitchens. Almost anywhere other than Cultural Hubs. Sure, it would be nice if there were traditional spaces for their art – I admit it: art looks good in a gallery – but artists will not stop making work because museums are not open to new artists or experimentation. Therefore funding should represent this.
Fund artists. Artists will make art and they will make spaces for it. Art will flourish and artists will engage and represent their community.
We do not need museums anymore.
With thanks to William Kherbek