I felt guilty giving up my £73 a year Art Fund membership, not only does it allow entry to exhibitions at half price, but helps the funding of the arts which are now in trouble. The independent charity raises funds to buy art works for the nation and awards grants to artists.
Many small galleries are now threatened with closure, but then I read through the latest copy of their magazine what they are proudly spending your/my money on; At the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in Birmingham, they’ve given £40,000 for an, ‘Arts, health and wellbeing programme,’ ‘for the needs of the local community.’
If you’ve got a verruca and live outside the area don’t bother going. There’s a ‘host nurse in residence as part of a pioneering scheme to enrich medical education through culture, using multi-disciplinar (sic) professionalism and community engagement.’ No idea what that means and their final epistle to enter my letterbox doesn’t say.
Then we’ve got, ‘A New Work for Studio Voltaire,’ nothing to do with the dead white male philosopher. The ‘Not-for-profit’ centre in Clapham, will reopen in September after a £2.8 million transformation, it’s also funded by the Arts Council, including a permanent work by Joanne Tatham and Tom O’Sullivan, commissioned by the AF. A vibrantly coloured work entitled, ‘The institute for the magical effect of actually giving a shit,’ is composed of ceramic tiles showing surprised cartoon like faces, and will be installed across the venue’s public loos.
The AF is also supporting the ‘Rural Diversity Network,’ to emphasis ‘Black voices in Cornwall.’ It can only be a relief to us all that this work will, ‘feed into the work of all local and national museums across the UK, ensuring representation and informing anti-racist practice.’ As apposed to the ‘racist practice’ which now informs our galleries.
My £73 is also helping, ‘The Queer Heritage and Collections Network which, ‘provides peer support for people in the UK working with LGBTQ+ collections and histories.’ Support for the ‘Alphabet People,’ usually comes with extra plurals.
The society funded a project manager, Dan Vo, as. well as a two-day symposium in January which gave vital advice on how to ‘Co-curate with queer communities and how to interpret queer lives.’
Surely the ‘Queer’ people would be doing the curating themselves? Again that isn’t explained. They are also funding 60 free training sessions on ‘anti-racism in museum recruitment,’ probably meaning art-galleries as well, but American usage seems preferred.
We can also look forward to the British Art Show, organised by London’s Hayward Gallery, which tours the country every five years. In ‘The spirit of inclusiveness,’ its curators, Irene Aristizabal and Hammad Nasar, have ensured that it will be dominated by black and Asian, ‘cultures and music,’ and of course ‘histories,’ plus of course the now obligatory, ‘Modern-day legacies of slavery, and expressions and explorations of gender identity and fluidity.’
Where would we be without them?
Remember how visiting a gallery on a wet afternoon, sometimes with one’s grandparents, was a lulling affair, during which some paintings were pointed out with admiration, while nude statues were regarded as rather outré? When was that ? A hundred, a thousand years ago?
It’s no good being nostalgic. In his recent article, ‘Out with the Old Masters’, cultural historian, Charles Saumarez Smith, CBE, former director of the National Portrait and the National Galleries, insisted that the public, those faceless folk, rarely consulted on anything, ‘Are more stimulated by contemporary art than the art of the past.
The priorities of museums (I think he meant art galleries) are changing towards a much less instructional approach, away from the past towards the present, away from teaching towards experience.’ He writes that this is ‘indisputably true.’ Not sure how he knows that unless he’s carried out an early census, or what that ‘experience’ aims to do within our galleries.
No doubt he and the Art Fund approve the turning of more of them into tourist funfairs like Tate Modern, and it’s pretty certain that they heartily approve the actions of Mwazulu Diyabanza, from Congo, who heads the, ‘Multicultural Front against Pillaging,’ a group dedicated to, pillaging.
Last June, between lockdowns, he entered a museum in Paris and seized a 19th-century African funeral post from Chad, shouting, ‘We’re taking it home!’ wrenching it from the wall.
A month later in Marseille he tried to remove an ivory spear from the Museum of African Art, then he turned up in Holland attempting to snatch a Congolese statue from a museum. He says he, ‘Will be visiting the British Museum once it reopens. It contains nine hundred African pieces that are very symbolic’ Given a good grant by the Art Fund to keep going, he could easily be a front-runner for the next Turner Prize.
Spring Edition out this week