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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: tenth anniversary issue

[Unfulfilled opportunities in the arts: a symposium],   pp. [7]-24 PDF (17.0 MB)

Page 24

24      to them. The museum-like atmosphere that
surrounds these institutions today must
be swept away, and the intelligent
but presently alienated people I have in
mind would contribute to that effort,
without lowering audience quality.
The trouble with this idea is that
foundations, corporations, the government
do not trust the individual artist; they
much prefer to place their money in
safely institutional hands, where nothing
untoward, nothing potentially embarrassing
will happen. I believe, however, that this
is artistically short-sighted and economically
wasteful (you really get more bang for
the buck by patronizing the individual
artist than you do by patronizing
institutions, even given the discouraging -
to bureaucrats -fact that most such
grants will not work out very well). My
point is that you must subsidize an
enormous amount of bad and indifferent art
in order to get an occasional masterpiece;
that one work, will, however, compensate
for all the waste effort that will inevitably
surround its creation.
rather see them direct their money and
energy to them and leave art alone
for a time. It has survived quite nicely
without their aid for a long period -
there are very few unborn masterpieces,
since masters will always, somehow, get
them finished - and it will survive until
the would-be commissars of culture are
ready, emotionally and psychologically, to
approach art in a spirit proper to it. My
answer, then, to your basic question is very
simple: we should, as a matter of social
policy, study art, care about it, worry
about it, but basically- except for buying
all the tickets we want- leave it alone
economically until we are ready for it.
It will always be ready for us.
It is a tough old bird.
I pointed out at the beginning that creation
in art is the most unpredictable of all
human phenomena. I therefore feel that the
efforts of foundation bureaucrats to
predict on the basis of past performance
the quality of work an artist may produce
on a grant from them is a waste of time and
money. I think they would do just about
as well by basing their grants on a table of
random numbers and, at the same time,
cut their overhead costs considerably.
Art is not a rational enterprise; it is an
accident, a mystery, a startlement. As a
critic I have discovered that my
preconceptions, my predictions as to the
quality of work I am about to see are
valueless. Artists whose last work
delighted me turn out dogs; artists who
have consistently failed my expectations
suddenly turn out near-masterpieces.
I not only live with this enigma, I have
come to love it. When our cultural
bureaucrats reach a similar conclusion I
think we may be ready for an intelligent,
random process of artistic patronage in this
country. Until they do, I think they will
mostly waste their money and our time and,
given the pressing problems posed by the
intertwined issues of race and
urbanization in this country - problems
best approached rationally - I would

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