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Luvvie Cuts - Why Not?

We cannot justify subsidies for culture – the best will find a paying audience and the rest must go the wall
Antonia Senior

The Anish Kapoor-designed, ArcelorMittal Orbital will soar above the London Olympic Park, dividing opinions, enraging taxi drivers and garnering nicknames. Personally, I love 84 per cent of it — the bit that was paid for by ArcelorMittal, the company owned by the steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, which is spending up to £16 million on it. I am substantially less enamoured of the £3.1 million bit that we are paying for. Could it just be a few feet shorter with the company picking up all the bill?

We are deep in an era of big public works of art and expensive subsidies. The four arts councils for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland receive £521 million of taxpayers’ cash and £168 million from the lottery....
The DCMS announced yesterday a £50,000 grant for a charity called Culture24 to develop smartphone apps that allow people to find the nearest art. In the event that you must know, without delay, the whereabouts of the nearest Picasso, this is for you; £50,000 may be a tiny sum, but if there’s a market for this app, it will be made. If not, why is the Government supplying this middle-class toy?
So if we start with this ridiculous app and move on to scrap all government spending on art, what will happen? Will cultural Armageddon follow? Defenders of subsidy argue that it would mean the end of “innovative” art. But too often “innovative” is a euphemism for “rubbish”.
Excellence would survive. The Mountaintop, the surprise winner of Best New Play at this year’s Olivier Awards, received no subsidies. It succeeded because it was good.
The argument that the creative industries require subsidies because they contribute to the economy is a circular one. Taxpayers fund art that generates profit that pays tax to fund art. Eh? Besides, out of every £1 given by taxpayers to fund the arts 10p goes on administration. How many of the much cited economic powerhouses in the sector are subsidised and how many the product of unaided cultural entrepreneurs?
American art and culture thrive despite the lack of subsidy....
I can understand why people are passionate about this, and why special interest groups are so vocal. I would like to argue the case for some cash to be thrown at really important art — ie, the stuff I like. But that would mean funding opera, young writers and free museums but allowing ballet and most installation art to face the wolves of unfettered market forces — and that makes no sense at all. In the arts debate, head must rule heart and fiscal ruthlessness must prevail.

Comments

Most of the world's best art came from times where rich patrons paid for it, the museums and galleries in every major city are full of great examples. The state was not involved at all. In theatre, Shakespeare wrote for commercial reasons and not because the government of the day was paying him. His audiences funded his work. Why should today be any different.

I think we should hearken back to that golden age and remove all taxpayer funding for the arts.

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