Archive for the Artistic failure in Great Britain Category

According to United Press International, the English artist Angus Fairhurst—a founding member of the Young British Artists group—committed suicide yesterday. There is no indication of his reasons for doing so.

Artist Angus Fairhurst dead at 41

LONDON, April 1 (UPI) — Angus Fairhurst, one of the founding members of the Young British Artists group of conceptual artists, has hanged himself from a tree, police said.

He was 41.

Fairhurst’s representative told The Daily Telegraph newspaper the artist committed suicide Saturday on the last day of his third solo show at a London gallery.

Strathclyde Police said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding Fairhurst’s death.

His body was found in a remote Highland woods near the Bridge of Orchy, the newspaper said.

“He always supported me, in fair weather and foul,” Fairhurst’s fellow artist Damien Hirst said. “He shone like the moon and as an artist he had just the right amount of ’slightly round the bend.’ I loved him.”

Fairhurst’s latest solo exhibition of sculptures and large-scale paintings was at Sadie Coles HQ in London.

“Angus was funny, ridiculously charming, a wonderful cook and great host, a crazy dancer, a radical gardener, a nature lover and an intensely intelligent artist,” Coles and her fellow director Pauline Daly said in a joint statement.

Fairhurst is survived by his mother, Sally, and brother, Charles.

So, on the eve of Hollywood’s annual bloviatathon, before we get sucked into, as A.O. Scott put it in the NYT, “the pomp and tedium of Hollywood spectacle,” let us call an end to—once and for all—any further discussions of the great (personal) waste of time that is the American Entertainmo-Industrial Complex.

Are we all agreed?… Great! Now we can return to more pertinent and pressing issues (and CAFA obsessions): The impending failure of the art market.

A recent story, in The Art Newspaper, speculates on what will be the exact timing, depth, and duration of the inevitable, looming bust. Anyone who has any sort of interest in art, or in the art market, should read this article. While there is no consensus about what shape the market crash will take, make no bones about it, arts-lovers (much as I hate to say it): Doom is neigh.

“Everyone is wondering if the downturn will be like 9/11”

New York dealers fear the worst

Brook S. Mason | 2.13.08

US dealers are admitting to sluggish sales, hesitant clients and cancelled deals amid continuing financial market woes, which last month saw America’s largest bank, Citigroup, post a $9.8bn fourth-quarter loss.

“Nobody wants to say the sky is falling but perception affects every market and clearly, we are entering a new period in the economy,” said Martha Fleischman, president of Kennedy Galleries. “The people who see art as part of their portfolio and like to flip will get an education very quickly this year,” she added.

“There are more dealers hanging on by their fingernails but no-one will go on the record,” said a prominent art world public relations expert who did not want to be named. “Everyone is wondering if the downturn will be just like 9/11,” she added.

Sir Richard Eyre has weighed in again about his notions of “cultural apartheid” in Britain. This time it’s in response to an announcement from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, James Purnell, that the British government “will work towards a position where no matter where they live, or what their background, all children and young people have the opportunities to get involved in top-quality cultural activities in and out of school.”

While Eyre admits to some skepticism over the idea that government can effectively address the problem of decreasingly public interest and involvement in the arts, he also welcomes the effort, any effort, to deal with the increasingly cultural antipathy of the masses. He is particularly concerned with creating a culturally classist society:

All things being equal, the choice of going to the opera or ballet or theatre or gallery or bookshop is a free one, open to everyone. But all things aren’t equal: the “choice” of going to the theatre or the opera or an art gallery doesn’t exist for vast numbers of people in this country, who, if they feel anything at all about art, feel disenfranchised. This distinction - between those who enjoy the arts and those who feel excluded from them - amounts to an absolute divide. It seems like apartheid to me.

No one can be blamed for such “apartheid,” of course. The government of Britain, like the U.S. government, is not at fault. No one is plotting, as a matter of policy, the decline of art. The problem is individual choice. The public has too many choices for how it can spend its time. There are too many competing cultural factions, and now that the Internet has put access to all of these factions within reach of every 6th grader, people gravitate more and more toward lowest-common-denominator bread-and-circuses, and less and less toward difficult or challenging culture and art. (Note: This is not a new phenomenon, as Eyre points out; after all, T.S. Eliot spoke fifty years ago of the decline of cultural discourse: “I see no reason why the decay of culture should not proceed much further, and why we may not even anticipate a period of some duration, of which it is possible to say that it will have no culture.” The problem now is that such decline has only been accelerated by tools of media and Internet we have shackled ourselves with.)

In the face of the diminishing returns of widening cultural self-choice, a solution seems unlikely. If no one is at fault, then no one can affect a change. Or rather, if everyone is at fault—everyone is responsible for their own cultural backwardness—then everyone equally has to affect the change. In the end, says Eyre:

Any government has a hard job justifying expenditure on the arts - it is easier to subsidise weapons of destruction than weapons of happiness. The benefits are hard to quantify and it is awkward but necessary to recognise that failure is an essential part of artistic creation; bad art will always exist beside the good. But it seems no more than logic to acknowledge - as James Purnell has - that the corollary of investing taxpayers’ money in the arts must be to evolve a strategy that embraces the departments of both culture and education to invest in the performers and the audiences of the future. It will enfranchise the victims of apartheid.

According to a recent story in The Observer, British theatre director Sir Richard Eyre says schools in Britain are failing to inspire the next generation of arts appreciators. Sound familiar?

Eyre, who led the National Theatre in England for 10 years, has warned that a condition of cultural apartheid has been “denying millions of people access to high culture.” Such a chasm, said Eyre, and the resulting lack of appreciation among schoolchildren for theatre, art, and classical music means a deterioration of support for the arts.

Eyre explained: “My fears are that you enlarge the divisions in society between those for whom the arts are a part of life and people who think it is impossibly obscure and incomprehensible…”Part of the job of education must be to enfranchise those people who feel disbarred from the arts.”

Should this blog instead be the International Chronicle of Artistic Failure?

Here’s an interesting little story from the BBC‚ about a side-result of the recent overheated international art market. Apparently, for about two decades in Britain—until they were recently caught—a son and his elderly parents made fake artworks and artefacts worth millions of dollars.

Shaun Greenhalgh made sculptural objects and paintings that were often flatfooted copies of originals he had found in catalogues. The artists and family also created fake letters to provide provenance for the objects that fooled multiple museums and collectors.

The police became suspicious when the letters contained misspellings and incorrect samples of cuneiform script. After raiding the family’s home, the police found that the artist’s forgeries went back at least seventeen years and had netted the family at least half a million pounds—the amount found in the family’s bank account. But police said the family’s crimes did not appear to have been motivated by money.

“They didn’t own a computer or live in luxury,” said the police. “They were living in abject poverty, a very poor lifestyle, very basic.”

So why did they do it, according to police? “They had a resentment of the art market and wanted to prove they could deceive it,” said one police official. “Greenhalgh felt he was a better artist than he would ever get recognition for and he developed a general hatred of the art market and the art establishment.”

Hm, possibly true. But just about every artist thinks the same—that he’s a better artists than just about everyone else—and most don’t end up going criminal.

Or do they?