Andre Wallace

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Arts and urban redevelopment

Our local authority is redeveloping an area beside the local river, so the local press has the usual promotion for involving the arts as a way of interesting people in the site and the cafes. This is the usual wrong headed hype from those who expect public art to perform like monkeys.
It has to be said that the promotion of the arts is not a secure environmental cure all for derelict areas. In 2010, 5.7 million pounds was spent on the Cultural Olympics by Arts Council England and we have not one single item of art to show for what was a scandalous waste of other people's funds. A number of very expensive white elephants from the Public in West Bromwich to the latest causality Walsall's New Art gallery have fallen foul of low support and take up after their cash strapped councils have failed to sustain what will always be a minority interest. The powers that be who want their names attached to new art galleries/centres don't care a damn about the often huge ongoing costs of running and staffing these pure status symbols. This has occurred repeatedly after initial investments of millions, and the quality of the art on offer is absolutely no guarantee of the buildings long term success. Often the assumed revival of a region fails to materialise, despite the quality art input, because those who inject the art have little or no knowledge of what art is and their objectives are purely utilitarian or pecuniary. Perhaps before the local council decides to waste possible millions of pounds of tax payers or sponsors money, they would be well advised to visit the Turner Contemporary in Margate and secure some understanding of why that particular gallery has been a commercial success when others have failed dismally.

As Tate curator Andrew Brighton has said: " the idea that people without art are lesser or inferior beings is a ridiculous assumption, a piece of moral vanity akin to a religious fanatics belief that only those of their faith are capable of real virtue. " 
For many, the issues which preoccupy the post modern urban art poseur; multiculturalism, egalitarianism, feminism, environmentalism and the other right on attitudes do not preoccupy them, they simply don't have the time or interest. There are millions of people who live happy and fulfilled lives without any engagement with the arts. The arts cannot guarantee anything, least of all tourists, they are far too ephemeral and transitory.

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