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J Bryant
J Bryant
4 months ago

There has never been a greater need in modern times for true benefactors of the arts. I don’t mean oligarchs who’ll pay artists to create woke art; I mean people who’ll subsidize artists to create without boundaries or limitations. More than ever we need artists of all types to speak honestly about our times and create a vision for the future.
I’m not aware of foundations, or just rich individuals, who provide funding for the arts not tied to a particular ideology. I wonder, for example, how Indie movie makers obtain funding?

Brett H
Brett H
4 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

“and create a vision for the future.”

Why do you think that’s something artists can do?

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
4 months ago

This issue is probably as old as art itself. Where records of such things exist, there were continual struggles between Renaissance artists and their patrons in how (for instance) biblical scenes were depicted. Indeed, the evolution of painting can in many ways be traced to the means that painters deployed to evade the disapproval of their patrons through manipulation of their medium in ways which their patrons were unable to fathom.

The tension between patronage and artistic vision can therefore be seen as a creative force in itself. The very act of seeking to escape the bounds of acceptability in pursuit of something more profound continues to this day. Whatever the current social mores seek to dictate, human nature will seek to evade. But whilst this might superficially sound like a reactionary process, instead it offers the means by which societal stasis and dull conformity are overcome.

There are lessons here for those whose woke censorship seeks to close down debate. Andrew’s field of comedy has largely become stultifyingly unfunny, but this article and his work in general shows there can be a way out of this impasse, by following the age-old route of finding the right boundaries to push and, as with great comedy, so much depends on timing.

Last edited 4 months ago by Steve Murray
Brett H
Brett H
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

“The tension between patronage and artistic vision can therefore be seen as a creative force in itself. “
I don’t know if those tensions could be seen as a creative force. The Renaissance artists might be considered more technicians than artists. The idea of “the artist” is a relatively new concept. The Renaissance artists were employed by their so called patrons, not to create but to make visible their conceits. Out of that came the work we so value. The real conflict came with “the artist” who’s ego would not bend. This act in itself was enough to reinforce the idea of “the artist”. Like all successful people artists have very big egos. So do people who have lots of money. That’s where the clash lies, not with the money.

Last edited 4 months ago by Brett H
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
4 months ago
Reply to  Brett H

**whose** ego…
As an exhibiting artist, i’d dispute your claim that “artists have very big egos”. In my experience, the range of egos amongst artists falls across a wide spectrum. In fact, many artists have fragile egos which aids their artistic process, over-sensitive in many respects to the outside world. Their work can be seen (without oversimplifying it) as a mechanism to bolster their ego. Again in my experience, there’s no direct correlation between success and the nature of their ego. Nor does being successful define who might be seen as an artist, certainly during their own lifetimes.
I agree with your point about “the artist” being a concept which developed during the Renaissance. But closer study of the way in which Renaissance artists pushed certain boundaries reveals that the creative tension brought about by their relationship with patronage certainly changed their work. The main area which i’d say this involved was the depiction of human figures to reflect a more human-centric rather than God-centric view of our existence. Their patrons weren’t necessarily aware this was happening, hence my point about artists knowing when to push the right boundaries.

Brett H
Brett H
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I don’t want to get into the subject of the artist to much, because you’ll know as well as I do the quicksands that lie ahead.
Re. the egos. Sure, not all artists have big egos. But in my experience, and here I’m talking about the success of those who reach the top, artists are very egotistical. It takes more that just talent to get there, just as it is in any business. These people want something, whether it’s in painting, dance or film. They’re all very similar in that regard. When there’s collaboration there’s the conflict of egos. Some manage it, some don’t. Sometimes it works, sometimes it destroys what was intended. Whether these tensions could be regarded as a creative force I’m still unsure.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
4 months ago
Reply to  Brett H

By their very nature, the tensions between artist and patron (or if no direct patron, then the mores of their society) result in creativity. Without that interplay, artists would in effect be working in a void. Where a direct patron is involved (as in most of the examples cited in Andrew’s article) the tensions may be more explicit, but that simply results in artists having to “up their game” to overcome them. The best manage to do so whilst retaining their integrity.
I’m not afraid of “quicksands”. Indeed, the very act of creation can often result from a feeling that the ground is shifting under one’s feet. In fact, i welcome it. Learning to ‘swim’ in metaphorical quicksand is part and parcel of a worthwhile career in the arts.

Michelle Gaugy
Michelle Gaugy
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Precisely as you say, Steve, the best negotiate the tensions between their integrity and the demands of audience/patronage. And ’twas ever thus. Rembrandt used to bid up his own work at auction. The Sistine Chapel, I like to remind people, was a commissioned work, taken on reluctantly by Michelangelo, in order to get another commission (the Pope’s tomb) that he really wanted. Does it not occur to anyone that there is no art without an audience – that art must always exist in relationship? Otherwise it’s just narcissistic blathering. And btw, I’ve been in the art world myself for almost 5 decades.

Last edited 4 months ago by Michelle Gaugy
Brett H
Brett H
4 months ago
Reply to  Michelle Gaugy

“Does it not occur to anyone that there is no art without an audience – that art must always exist in relationship?”
Emily Dickinson.

Michelle Gaugy
Michelle Gaugy
4 months ago
Reply to  Brett H

Please tell me where Ms. Dickinson said this…. I’ve been saying it for decades, without attribution! Thanks, MG

Brett H
Brett H
4 months ago
Reply to  Michelle Gaugy

Emily Dickinson, considered one of the great American poets never shared her poetry. So, no audience, but a great deal of respected and valued work.

Last edited 4 months ago by Brett H
Brett H
Brett H
4 months ago
Reply to  Michelle Gaugy

.
?

Last edited 4 months ago by Brett H
Brett H
Brett H
4 months ago
Reply to  Michelle Gaugy

?

Last edited 4 months ago by Brett H
Brett H
Brett H
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

That is not what I meant by “quicksand”. What I was referring to was the problem, that always arises, of what is art and what is an artist?

Brett H
Brett H
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

“I agree with your point about “the artist” being a concept which developed during the Renaissance.”
Thats not what I said. What I said was that the idea of the artist is a relatively new concept, probably from the 19th century. The egotism of the artist, the painter, was that he would now paint what what he saw, what he felt, what he wanted to say and damn everyone else. Consequently he was now out on his own.

Paul Reynolds
Paul Reynolds
4 months ago

The super rich money behind today’s mega-art has no soul or sense at all. That’s why the likes of Drake and Kanye can be megastars. I (it’s called Paulcito) sing and write a better song than Drake can, and I don’t even work in the industry.

Vince B
Vince B
4 months ago

Thanks for this. Thank you, Unherd, for not being entirely about politics. One of the healthieset things we can do is find a place for discussion outside of politics.

Brett H
Brett H
4 months ago
Reply to  Vince B

Yes, I agree. Interesting how few comments there are here.

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
4 months ago

Chinatown – one of the greatest American films of all time? I don’t think so.

Brett H
Brett H
4 months ago

Well a near perfect film, anyway.

David Ginsberg
David Ginsberg
4 months ago

I agree with this to a degree but for every “Godfather” there are at least a dozen “Boat That Rocked” inflicted on the public