Wednesday, September 26, 2007

State Art

A modern Tintoretto

What cost taxpayers £50m to build, a further £3m pa to subsidise, and promotes child porn?

Yes that's right- the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead. Well, OK, they apparently never actually promoted that particular bit of porn- gallery officials themselves called the police after realising they were about to display a photographic "image, which featured two young girls one of whom was sitting down with her legs wide apart".

But frankly, as a use of public funds, the rest of the exhibition doesn't sound a whole lot better, promising punters as it does:

"This exhibition contains material of a sensitive nature. It may include explicit language, nudity, sexual imagery or violence."

Great. Where's my flasher mac?

Now, Tyler has nothing against pix of "a man holding his penis", or indeed any such "art" stuff. But WTF should he be forced to pay for it? Why should it be rammed down taxpayers' throats?

We've blogged the outrage that is arts subsidy many times (eg see here). It costs us about £0.6bn pa directly from central government, and another goodness knows how much more indirectly via regional development quangos and local authorities.

From Bayreuth to Gateshead, state subsidised art is taxing the poor to serve the prejudices and leisure pursuits of the ruling elite. And we're still far from convinced state subsidy has ever produced any truly great art (we don't count old-time personal patrons who happened to be autocratic rulers, like the Hapsburgs).

PS As bragged here, Tyler has Art A Level - grade A - and from the days when it involved drawing real things, and painting, and that. Admittedly he only got his high grade by aping classmate Steve Bell, the highly gifted artist who has since forged a brilliant career in the entirely commercial and competitive world of political cartooning. Still, it means Tyler is fully qualified to opine on matters artistic. So listen up and I'll tell you how to bluff your way in art.

According to Tyler and Bell's old art master, you too can produce a Newsnight Review style critique of any artistic image, by following the four headings rule- subject matter, composition, use of colour, and technical execution. Try it out on the art work posted above:
  • Subject matter- Brown is the true heir to Thatcher: we Tories can trust him a damned sight more than we can trust ecowibblyhugahoodiemaggiedenier Dave

  • Composition- classic arrangement of figures archly referencing Tintoretto's Adoration of the Magi: yet the artist has subtly placed the figure of Brown in the dominant, on tiptoes, and still to the left of Thatch

  • Use of colour- brilliant scarlet and black, the dazzling projection of supreme power since the Middle Ages, echoing the classic portrait of Cardinal Wolsey in his pomp

  • Technical execution- a work of undoubted genius, every element minutely arranged and observed, yet still subservient to the work's timeless themes- continuity, security, and smashing the Tories to dust

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