For Commerce And Contemplation-From David Thompson: ‘The Humble Among Us:’

Let’s face it, some people claiming to speak for the arts, or all artists, or all of the public who would benefit from the arts, are quite obviously speaking for themselves, their own interests, and/or ideas that will never speak for all artists nor all of the public.

In the worst cases, they can be speaking for ideas which seek to deploy the arts as propaganda.

Usually, though, after the humor dies down, such thinking tends to lead to more foundations, arts councils and programs, not necessarily better art:

‘As a member of our creative caste, Ms Delaney wants to capture the buzz and thrum of city life. She wants to inspire “recognition” and, above all, “empathy.” It’s just that she’d prefer not to empathise too much with those non-creative people. Say, by working for a living and paying her own bills’

For those interested, here are a few central questions I’ve gleaned from many discussions and debates of my own:

Who decides what is good and not good art, and what the public ‘ought’ to be viewing?‘

’Should artists of ambition, some talent and potential genius be supported, and if so, how?  Does this support always incentivize them to make better art?

Does institutionalization lead to the easier appropriation of art by the religious, the politicians, the speculators and patrons, the culture vultures and various other ideological interests?

Should You Be Taxed To Pay For The Arts?-David Thompson Via Artblog.net: ‘Cargo Culture’

Full post here.

‘David Thompson’s blog has become an indispensable resource for arguments against the public funding of contemporary culture. ‘

If you build the art museums, some people believe ‘culture’ will follow.

So what’s wrong with liking art, recognizing some inherent value in the pleasure it gives and importance in one’s own life, potentially to other lives, and more broadly to one’s own society in supporting public funding of museums and art education?

Follow the link for an interesting debate.

For the libertarians, Bastiat is mentioned, and for the pop-art lovers, so is David Byrne of the Talking Heads (featured in the NY Times):

‘I refrain from calling Byrne a socialist, but what goes unsaid here is that our objections are to a prior assumption by believers in state power, namely that because some undertaking is worth doing, that the state ought to be doing it. If Byrne is addressing society in the above quote (and I think he is to some degree, although largely by not making Bastiat’s distinction), he is doing so as if it were an aggregate, even an abstraction. This may be the essence of the statist mind: that an abstracted aggregate of other people ought to be devoting their energies to the effort I deem noble. It’s from there that the demands flow. The collectivist is not asking you to give up expenditures on your hobby to support his (even if his has been fashioned into a career), he’s asking the abstract aggregate to change its trajectory or support the arts or something nebulous and lofty like that. Cargo Culture springs into being when such demands are met.’

For those interested, here are a few central questions I’ve gleaned from many discussions and debates of my own:

Who decides what is good and not good art, and what the public ‘ought’ to be viewing?

-‘Should artists of ambition, some talent and potential genius be supported, and if so, how?  Does this support always incentivize them to make better art? 

Does institutionalization lead to the easier appropriation of art by the religious, the politicians, the speculators and patrons, the culture vultures and various other ideological interests?

And if you’re still with me, we can always complicate matters further:

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Beauty is no quality in things themselves, it exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty.

David Hume

Photo here.

Can we really talk about universals when we talk about beauty and a philosophy of aesthetics?

Related On This Site: When poetry went into the universities: Repost-From Poemshape: ‘Let Poetry Die’

Philosopher Of Art Denis Dutton of the Arts & Letters Daily argues the arts and Darwin can be sucessfully synthesized: Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Conservative Briton Roger Scruton suggests keeping political and aesthetic judgments apart in the humanities:Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

How might Nietzsche figure in the discussion (was he most after freeing art from a few thousand years of Christianity, monarchy and aristocracy…something deeper?), at least with regard to Camille Paglia.  See the comments:  Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was Successful

Hopefully it won’t go this far:  From Big Hollywood: ‘The National Endowment For The Art Of Persuasion?’

From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?From 2 Blowhards-We Need The Arts: A Sob Story

Andrew Delbanco At The NY Times Review Of Books: ‘The Two Faces Of American Education’

Full piece here.

Delbanco sets up a dichotomy between long-time education reformer Diane Ravitch, who’s drifting into a rather closed defense of public-schooling as is, and Michelle Rhee, who led the charge against the status quo in Washington D.C. schools and ran into a lot of problems:

‘Perhaps a starting point would be to acknowledge, as Ravitch does, that the golden age of master teachers and model children never existed, and, as Rhee insists, that the bureaucracy of our schools is wary of change. One thing that certainly won’t help our children is any ideology convinced of its exclusive possession of the truth.’

Worth a read.

Readers of this blog will know I tend to favor non-union, non-collectivist reform of public schooling, despite the fact that charter schools are clearly no magic bullet.

I reserve the right to view even the most dedicated school-reformers, pragmatist-inspired defenders of the common good, and crusaders for the public interest with a skeptical eye, while simultaneously recognizing that they are the ones trying to tackle many of the fundamental problems our society faces in terms of education and opportunity.

I don’t believe education fits under Milton Friedman’s intellectual net, but I like seeing how he comes at the problems of scarcity of resources, students failed by the system, and entrenched educators.  As teachers will tell you, many parents simply aren’t involved, and abdicate their responsibilities to their children, the schools, and everyone else…money can be a good way to keep people accountable who run the system, but the rational incentive model of money and the freedom to choose with kids leaves a lot to be desired:

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Also On This Site:  Diane Ravitch At Education Week: ‘Why Michelle Rhee and Adrian Fenty Lost’Two Links On Diane Ravitch & School Reform

From Reason.Tv: ‘NBC’s Education Summit-Joe Trippi, Michelle Rhee & More’From The Washington Post: ‘D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee To Announce Resignation Wednesday’

Rhee stated much the same here:  She didn’t with the people who I are most involved…Michelle Rhee At Newsweek: “What I’ve Learned”Repost-’Too Much “Quality Control” In Universities?’

Robert Samuelson Via Real Clear Politics: ‘Why School Reform Fails’From The Bellevue Reporter-Walter Backstrom’s: ‘Educational Progress And The Liberal Plantation’

From The Detroit Free Press: ‘DIA’s Art Collection Could Face Sell-Off To Satisfy Detroit’s Creditors’

Full piece here.

The city’s finances are worse than realized, the corruption deeper, the rot more thorough, leaving many interests still unwilling to face bleak reality.  It’s been a long, slow decline, and it may come down to hawking the city’s art collection:

‘The DIA is unusual among major civic museums in that the city retains ownership of the building and collection while daily operations, including fund-raising, are overseen by a nonprofit institution.’

Many collectors who donated to the museum have put restrictions on their donations, so if it gets that far along there will be much confusion as to what can and can’t be sold, and where the proceeds would go.

Detroit’s industry is gone, and unlike New York City, which still has a diversified portfolio and a tax base to squeeze during tough times, Detroit has virtually nothing to fall back on.  It’s a ghost town:

“New York went into receivership, (and) nobody forced it to sell Central Park,” Nowling said. “We’re certainly going to make that argument that they’re jewels of the city that are just inherent to the city itself that we need to have. But people need to be prepared.’

Be prepared.

Detroit’s not too big to fail, the argument a delegation of mayors pleading to the Federal Government and the Ford Administration made for the Big Apple back in 1975:

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Perhaps this is why Mayor Bloomberg got so angry recently when the taxi deal got blocked. The budget he’d prepared relied on similar gimmicks. Even NYC can probably only placate some voting blocs for so long with limited revenue.

***As for budget gimmicks on the national level, green schemes and union deal failures have been swept quietly under the rug.  Our deficits are getting scary.  Unemployment remains high.  Our politics remains deeply partisan, and by many appearances, nearly dysfunctional at the moment.

Addition: As a reader points out, the NY metro area is growing.  Yes it’s growing, but its politics is badly in need of updating, and like other major American cities, has its share of patronage, rot, and cronyism.  It is a world city as well.

Hipster hope, artists, collectivists and small business types can’t save it either:  A Short Culture Wars Essay-Two Links On Detroit & ‘Ruin Porn’

What about the popular arts and culture?:Update And Repost-From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’…A Few Thoughts And A Tuesday Poem By Philip Levine

GM is not a municipality, but good money got put in, probably after bad and it reeks of politics: From The Detroit News: ‘How The Treasury, GM Stock Deal Got Done’

Walter Russell Mead takes a look at the blue model (the old progressive model) from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working.  Check out his series at The American Interest.

Via Youtube: Ric Burns—New York: A Documentary Film – Episode One: The Country and The City (1609-1825)

A museum industrial complex…more complexes…who are the people museums should be serving? James Panero At The New Criterion: ‘Time to Free NY’s Museums: The Met Responds’

James Panero At The New Criterion: ‘Time to Free NY’s Museums: The Met Responds’

Full post here.

His original piece ‘It’s Time To Free N.Y. Museums‘ at the NY Daily News.

Panero offers some course-correcting criticism for New York’s public museums, which may be depending too much upon ticket revenue, operating more like businesses.

You can get it in if you pay a penny, but they can pressure you to pay the full $25, mainly to get the higher amount from foreign tourists.

‘Thomas P. Campbell, the Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, has issued an “important message” responding to the criticism I and others have raised over the ticketing policies at his and other public-private institutions in New York City. The Director’s affable but ultimately defensive message tells me the Met has heard the criticism but hasn’t listened to it.’

Don’t forget the little people, and your core mission:

‘But big business can be bad business at a non-profit designed to serve the public good. The ever-increasing demands of what I call the museum-industrial complex was the topic of my essay in The New Criterion a year ago, titled “What’s a Museum?”

That piece here.

So, we’ve got the ‘educational-industrial complex’, the ‘military-industrial complex’, and now the ‘museum-industrial complex’.

We’ve got a lot of complexes.

This blog remains skeptical of people interested in broad definitions of the public good which often line up with their own interests, especially upon the ‘greatness’ model:  ‘A great nation deserves great art.’

Such folks can eventually become entrenched on the public dime, having self-selected into a group of cultural gatekeepers, resistant to any change.  They never manage to serve all the public, just usually the public as they’d like it to be, despite the good they can do.

From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?From 2 Blowhards-We Need The Arts: A Sob Story

Related On This Site:  MOMA is private, so perhaps it’s not as decadent if they display Tilda Swinton in a box:

Tilda Swinton At MOMA-From Arma Virumque: ‘Nightmare In A Box’

From The City Journal Via Arts And Letters Daily: Andre Glucksman On “The Postmodern Financial Crisis”

Roger Scruton says keep politics out of the arts, and political judgment apart from aesthetic judgment…this includes race studies/feminist departments/gay studies etc.:  Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

Goya’s Fight With Cudgels and Goya’s Colossus.  A very good Goya page here.

Joan Miro: Woman… Goethe’s Color Theory: Artists And ThinkersSome Quotes From Kant And A Visual Exercise

A Reaction To Jeff Koons ‘St John The Baptist’

Denis Dutton suggests art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’