Thursday, March 08, 2007

Creative Capital

There's a damned-if-they-do---damned-if-they-don't reality for political leaders with an inclination to support the arts. Support them and you open yourself up to association with their oft transgressive messages and thus criticism from conservative folks who see such openness as uncivilized. Don't support them and you open yourself up to association with their anti-progressive detractors and thus criticism from liberal folks who see such closed-mindedness as unsophisticated. The best anyone can do is support them but claim not to always like them.

noted here before, though, there's a growing sense among leaders that without creativity being promoted and nurtured, industrialized nations won't be able to compete/survive in the new global economy. And in this age of branding and racing to frame the debate first, then, you have to give British Prime Minister Tony Blair credit for jumping out ahead of the pack and declaring Britain as “Creative Capital of the World.” From Britian's Telegraph:

Tony Blair said Britain was living through a "golden age" of the arts yesterday - claiming some, but not all, of the credit for it himself.

In the first major speech on the subject, the Prime Minister said that the vibrancy of the arts had made London the "creative capital of the world", putting it ahead of Paris, Berlin and New York as both a tourist attraction and a crucible for cultural innovation.

In deeply reflective mood - the maiden arts speech was quickly interpreted as another attempt to define his "legacy" - Mr Blair said the wealth and depth of great culture in Britain made it a world-beater.

He said: "A nation that cares about art will not just be a better nation. In the early 21st century, it will be a more successful one."
Of course, it might have been a more successful branding had there not been a good dose of truth to the claim. Britain's very creative citizens took this declaration as a challenge and have responded in force on the Telegraph's blog. Some of my favorite responses include:

Tony has failed at making it a golden age of anything else but showers with the rest of Britain.

Go on Tony - choose something slightly ambiguous that you have little influence over at all and put your stamp on it.

Next month: Britain - celebrating the age of the goldren arches.
A golden age? More like old coins worth tuppence. Under Blair we see the prospect of the British Library having to reduce collections and public access. We see the National Lottery good cause funds being raided in order to pay for the London Olympics. We see Heritage funding at the lowest level ever. Blair's vision of culture runs to the Bee Gees, Oasis and Cliff Richard, and don't forget The Dome. Blair's idea of national involvement in "culture" is to open a casino and to liberate gambling.
It's laughable. Blair is grabbing at straws. His so-called "legacy" is crumbling around him - education! the NHS! House of Lords Reform! "The war on terror"! Middle East Peace! So, what's left? Oh, yes, the arts. With Tracey Emin's dirty underwear and Damine Hirst's cow and sheep caracasses in formaldehyde, the Renaissance is here again. And it's all thanks to Tony Blair.
and finally
Britains might be creative, but as soon as they are successful they are condemned, and then taxed back into unemplyoyment benefits and council squalor thanks to Tony. Anyone with any sense and artistic flair gets out and flourishes elsewhere.
Of course, I suspect Bush would fare much worse were he to attempt a similar speech at MoMA. (As if! He's much more likely to attempt to define his legacy with regards to America's cultural landscape at a NASCAR race.) Britain can take solace in the fact that regardless of how little they credit Blair for bolstering the arts in Britain, which is hot and hopping, there's no doubt, he's done infinitely more for them than Bush ever will here.

Labels: art legacy


Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Come now, the arts are flourishing under George W. Bush. There are an unprecedented number of Disney shows on Broadway, there have been several record-breaking Hollywood blockbusters during his tenure, and some of the best TV since the medium's inception has aired while he was president. And think about the brilliant novelistic fiction found in, for example, the New York Times. Stop complaining! No, really, stop complaining before the police take you away.

3/08/2007 08:55:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

“Creative Capital of the World.”

So is Britain the Capitol of Capital?

...Blair's vision of culture runs to the Bee Gees, Oasis and Cliff Richard...

I thought the BeeGees were Australian. Are they still a colony?

3/08/2007 11:13:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

Or is it "Capital of Capital"? Actually, I think that's correct...

3/08/2007 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger Hungry Hyaena said...

Plus, Edward, though you may poo-poo the sport in these pages, I know you're a huge fan of The Biff. You should really own up to it. ;)

3/08/2007 01:28:00 PM  
Blogger Molly Stevens said...

Here's a thought: Good art comes out of a country when the country doesn't support it.

3/08/2007 02:21:00 PM  
Anonymous ml said...

Molly, maybe in contemporary times, but all of the classics prior to the Romantics were funded by either the state or the church.

And if Blair can claim credit for the art explosion in Britain, then Bush can claim credit for establishing the investment mentality rampant in the current US art market.

3/09/2007 10:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Historians and art historians look for patterns.

Previews golden ages’ in art coincided with political stability, prosperity and the rule of law.

Stand back and do the test? Find the pattern? Give the credit.


3/09/2007 04:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've seen some great blackboard art down at the local $tarbuck$, the new-new Medicis fund through mochas.

3/10/2007 12:22:00 AM  

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