Andrew Motion today joins the ranks of the luvvies in a plea for more bread and circuses in the face, as he would have it, of savage and philistine government cuts to the arts. Motion and the arts lobby paint the culture secretary as a man who reaches for his pistol at the mention of his department’s name, who snatches library books from the damp fists of infants and who is strangling at birth a vibrant and talented local culture of artistic endeavour. What piffle.
For years the mediocre, the talentless, the lazy, the deluded and the hubristic have shared in the tax-funds we have pumped into the ‘arts’. The luvvie establishment bought into the trite doctrine of artistic self-definition, as in ‘I’m an artist, therefore anything I create is a work of art’, a doctrine that has filled municipal lobbies, lending libraries, ‘people’s galleries’, redundant churches and scout huts with more artistically worthless, shallow, derivative, clumsy, inept, maladroit, graceless tat and rubbish than a chap on a high mountain could wave a stick at. It’s as if all the anti-talent of Maya Angelou, Jeff Koons and Vladimir Tretchikoff had been marketed by Mohammed Fayed and funded by the Sultan of Brunei.
The RA Summer Exhibition offers the public the opportunity to see art of exquisite awfulness alongside the rather good at no cost to the taxpayers’ purse. Wealthy sponsors such as Charles Saatchi put their own money where their instinct lies. Jay Jopling founded the White Cube with not a penny of my cash. The West End theatres are packed every night with no subsidy because they stage plays and shows that people rate, rather than because they’re written or performed by some perceived victim grouping. And I’ve spent enough of my life deeply in drink with some of the finest artists of the last generation to recognise that no-one of any talent is dependant on a grant from the local council.
Milan Kundera termed the support of awful art by controlling political regimes the “absolute denial of shit”. By supporting and promoting the dreadful, the sense of common discrimination is dulled, the people gulled, and the power and voice of worthwhile and original art and culture suffocated beneath the drek of lesbian dance collectives and men who exhibit painted plaster casts of their penis. The deprivation of meritocracy from art and culture, the protection of the awful from Darwinian winnowing, the blurring of our power of discrimination, is all, Kundera says, an effort by the politically powerful to isolate the people from uncomfortable truths.
The acid test for art in an advanced civilisation is the market.