Sitting on one of the benches outside near the RWA, while eating my £3.95 chorizo, goat’s cheese and rosary goat’s cheese baguette, from Papadeli cafe, I have the song Crying Game running through my head.
It’s not playing because of the vandalised art work which is one third still standing, wrapped in bubble wrap, and two thirds down on the ground, wrapped in canvas, like a body about to be taken to a morgue. I just misread someone’s tweet about the waiting game.
I had a brief vision of the shocking end to the movie where the person you thought you loved was not in the right body after all. Now, as I watch, the body is covered by blue tarpaulin and then undressed again so Sabet Choudhury can report on it for Points West this evening.
The bronze sculpture ‘Aspiration’ by David Backhouse was worth £40,000 and showed three girls in bronze, one higher than the other. It will now probably be melted down but it was meant to inspire and bring beauty or at least a different filter on reality.
The reality of having aspirations in this day and age, however, is a lot different from any of the other decades in the 70 year old artist’s history.
Tracy Emin may seem like a fool for claiming that the Conservative party, which has cut funding on so many things is the only saviour of arts funding, but she does have a point. Who do you think buys art, she asks? It certainly isn’t the Labour philanthropists.
I question the use of the word philanthropists, which means lover of people, but agree with her contention that it is the ones with a lot of money who can afford to purchase art.
The horror of the cost of some of these works is one more example of the distorted value we place on things. A young pair of siblings have £600,000 to spend between them on a house, footballer’s wages can pay for a school but instead fund private planes, and as Del Amitri sing, Van Gogh paintings sells for the price of a hospital wing.
I am not questioning the value of the arts, indeed I think that without culture, in all its different manifestations, we become isolated and lacking in an understanding of how we all view the world differently.
We need some beauty and art to expand and inspire our lives, don’t we? Outside the RWA was a piece of art that was worth a lot but was available for 22 days for free. It was then torn down.
Next up will be work by artist Damien Hirst whose previous creations have included the diamond encrusted skull For the Love of God which was priced at £50 million. The cuts to the art world this year were worth £19.1 million and taken away from 206 organizations. The price of art like Hirst’s is sublimely ridiculous.
And why was I sitting outside to eat my sandwich instead of inside the cafe? Because I saved 20% by taking my food away with me. At a cost of over £8, my delicious meal was not cheap. I’ll happily treat myself once a month but it does make me wonder which art is for me and which is for the ones who can afford it?
Art became untouchable a long time ago and it was up to art galleries, museums and libraries to keep it safe for a while. Their upkeep has changed to a model which cries out for donations and volunteers and it is the Conservative government’s dream that this is what the Big Society will be.
The mistake here is in the definition of art and of society. Emin is not talking about the kind of art which inspires and builds aspirations, she is talking about the kind that brings in a lot of money for a select few. In the same vein, the coalition government are cutting funds from activities which they as individuals can already afford.
We are moving away from a society where we used to be able to share art and public goods to a place where you need to purchase in order to enjoy anything. Public art becomes private viewings, private care, private schooling and all the things most of us can’t afford.
Maybe it’s more fitting than ironic that it was Aspiration that was knocked down this weekend. Just have to wonder whose aspirations.