Art and politics don’t mix
- Someone stuck the article below (from The Scotsman) on the noticeboard outside my office. I wasn’t sure if it was specifically aimed at myself but I stopped to read it and there was plenty in it that chimed. The author Tiffany Jenkins challenges comments made by Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop about the economic value of art – or “the creative industries” in newgovernmentspeak – but in doing so Tiffany doesn’t differentiate between dissident art and art at the service of governement. That aside its still worth a critical read. (KW)
In 1902, at the opening of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, the city’s Lord Provost justified the founding and opening of the gallery because “art was in itself a refining and improving and ennobling thing”. Can you image anyone saying something similar today?
The establishment of the museum was one of many achievements of a municipal art and gallery movement that swept Britain in the 19th century.
Art was seen as important in its own right, for its own sake, and as playing a role in transforming people’s everyday lives, lifting them out of their mindless routines through an engagement with truth and beauty.
Last week, at a major museums and galleries summit in Edinburgh, culture secretary Fiona Hyslop gave one of those speeches full of praise for the arts sector in Scotland, intended to champion success, littered with carefully chosen buzz words: “creativity”, “diversity”, “sustainability” and “participation”. In so doing, she unintentionally revealed that the Scottish Government has not got a clue about what art and cultural institutions are for.
In a speech that does not mention the name of one artist, or describe any artefact, even though it was delivered at a major conference on museums and galleries, she claimed: “We value the tremendous impact our museums and galleries bring to society and local communities.”
That sounds reasonable, at first, but what did she mean? What is the “tremendous impact” and how is it valued? There are two ways the arts make a difference, Hyslop elaborated. The problem is, neither of them has anything to do with art.