Since medicine is just another business, why should the arts be different? Here’s a speech by the director of the Barbican Centre that goes into his various woes and misgivings. It’s not a great speech, and rather long, but it’s worth reading for the picture it gives of the situation in one Western society of “the creative industries” (an expression that belongs with “sex worker” as an manifestation of the current flattening of all things). Art is a product like any other, the view is, so its support should depend on whether people generally like it, and whether it advances such noble goals as “inclusiveness” (the abolition of all qualitative distinctions, a rather odd goal for the arts). But how do you measure such things? By setting and enforcing performance targets, of course.
It’s obvious that the arts should not be the responsibility of people who look at things that way. Whatever might be said about popes, kings, dukes or the haute bourgeoisie, modern Western governments have little good to add to cultural life. Unfortunately, the same goes for much private support as well. Our governments are not anomalies. For foundations and corporate donors, mass acceptability, outreach and inclusiveness are the keys. When it occurs to donors that there must be something more to art, they add a little conventionalized radicalism to the mix. There’s no wholesale solution to the problem. Nonetheless, we can all make a start by maintaining independence of certified authorities and attaching ourselves to whatever we actually find good. Freedom is always within reach for those who want it.