Tuesday, July 31, 2012

More public money for crap "art"

Sorry, but here's another rant about public money going to pay for crap art. In my last post I expressed annoyance that Tracey Emin has been paid out of the public purse for her rubbish Olympics tube map illustration. Now I learn that that other colossal fraud, Damien Hirst, is benefiting from the Olympics too.

The Tate has a Hirst exhibition as part of the London 2012 Festival, "the most exciting festival the UK has ever seen, bringing more than 10 million opportunities to see 12,000 performances and events. Leading artists from all over the world will come together for this unique event to celebrate London 2012." The Tate describes him as "one of the most influential artists of his generation", ignoring his plagiarism, his delegation of the actual creation of his art to his assistants, and his cynical exploitation of wealthy art collectors with more money than sense.

It is exhibitions like this that maintain Hirst's reputation. Your taxes - think of the security costs for looking after the Swarovski skull! - help to prop up his value at auction. That makes this an unaccountable transfer of public money from the many to the wealthy elite.

If our gallery directors want to express their patriotism, they should do better sell all the Hirsts in the national collection at once. Crash the market and grab the cash. Call it art! Damien would.

Then use the money to support some artists who have something interesting to say. 
If only they would.

Meanwhile, how can we stop Emin, Hirst and other rubbish artists getting their hands on any more public money?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

"... some kind of communication, a message"

"Being an artist isn't just about making nice things, or people patting you on the back; it's some kind of communication, a message."
Tracey Emin
Looking at Tracey's drawings, the main message I get is the sort you read on public lavatory walls; lots of crude penises and vaginas. Nice things? What nice things? Being an artist? Oh deary me.

In December last year the Royal Academy made her Professor of Drawing. Hard to believe. When I heard it, I didn't believe it. Nor did many others. Surely a Professor of Drawing ought to be able to draw? Just a niggling little thing, I know.

It's bad enough when people with more money than sense, or taste, pay her £10,000s for her "art", but when public money goes into her bank account, it beggars belief. I don't know how much Ms Emin was paid for her latest masterpiece, the cover for the Tube map, but they could have commissioned a seven-year-old and got much the same sort of thing.

I just don't get it. Every time I see one of her creations, I think of the Hans Christian Anderson story about the Emporer's New Clothes, and imagine that all the foolish people who buy her work or write glowingly about it must be caught up in some sort of mass delusion. She has absolutely no talent, apart from a talent for making money and publicising herself. Why can't they see that?

David Lee of The Jackdaw isn't fooled. He's referred to her drawings as "childish scribbles unworthy of even the fridge door". This is his verdict on the tube map drawing:
The latest masterpiece from the Professor of Drawing is the cover for the tube map. She does a fair warbler with its beak open and trots it out at regular intervals. “When in doubt scribble a bird with its beak open,” advised the Prof as she stepped down from the Margate Express. It was commissioned for a special map to be handed out during the Olympics so that all the foreign visitors will be overwhelmed by the wealth of artistic talent in our country. Said the mayor of London, whose brilliant idea it was to approach the Professor: “How appropriate it is that our Olympic map should echo the advice of the mighty Apelles who drew birds as symbols of an athlete’s freedom of spirit.” Meanwhile, the willing idiot in charge of art on the underground spewed out what she always says when a new map is published: “The artwork presents a moving and unique interpretation of the capital.” Mrs Margi Doonham of Nottingham, who was up the smoke bargain-hunting for suicide potions, said after studying her map that she knew a disabled artist who could draw a better bird holding the pencil up his arse.

She likes birds does the Margate Express – and every one a masterpiece. Some years ago we reported on her sculpture outside the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool. It was sixty grand’s worth (courtesy of the BBC who for some reason paid for it) of tiny bird on a pole which some unimpressed scouser promptly sawed off. It was found nearby in a jiffy bag and reattached, following which it was nicked again. We are unsure of its current status, but do let us know if you are privy to information.
Dear Boris, I can draw. I went to college and everything. My drawings look like they're supposed to. I've never drawn willies or fannies on toilet walls. I'd be very happy to design an underground map cover. Compared with Ms Emin, my fees would be relatively modest. How about it?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

SOS dairy farmers

This is a letter I'm sending to my milk supplier and my MP:
Mike Sheldon
Dairy Crest
Claygate House
Littleworth Road
Surrey, KT10 9PN

Dear Mr Sheldon,

I was very sorry to hear that Dairy Crest is dropping its standard liquid agreement milk price by 1.65p per litre from 1 August 2012, leaving farmers with 24.92 per litre.

I read that milk retailers blame the price cuts on “market forces”, which doesn’t make sense to me.

Customers have been used to low prices because of competition, but this can’t be sustained in the long term if it forces farmers out of business and we come to rely on cheap imported milk and milk products from countries that have lower welfare standards and pay lower wages. I would rather that we continued to support British farmers, for all sorts of reasons.

British consumers are paying 99p per litre for Coca-Cola, which has no nutritional value; they should be educated to expect to pay a realistic price for milk, which does.

In my youth I worked on dairy farms and know how much time and effort goes into a doorstep pinta. I fully support the NFU and Farmers’ Weekly milk prices campaign. I’m informed that Kite consultants estimate the average break even cost to produce milk on farm is 29.3 pence per litre. Over the last year, cost pressures on farmers, such fresh calved heifer replacements (+14.7%), fresh calved cows (+29.8%), Soya (+15%), maize gluten (+11.9%) (Source Dairy Co April 2011 vs April 2012), have contributed to significantly increase their costs to produce milk, and they’ve also had to cope with the consequences of the bad weather.
I currently have organic semi-skimmed milk delivered in glass bottles (avoiding plastic) via Milk & More, so I’m already paying more than a majority of customers but would be willing to pay whatever is fair to the farmers who produce it. Incidentally, where does my milk come from?

I urge you to reverse the decision to cut milk prices and to pay farmers a sustainable rate.

Yours sincerely, etc.

Click here to read about the NFU's campaign
Click here to read more at Farmers' Weekly

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Body of Art

I shan't be going to the BP Portrait Award exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery this year, for the second year running. I need help to get there, and last year my helper was in Africa. This year, I don't fancy fighting my way through the crowds heading for the Olympics but I have a catalogue, so I've seen photos of the prizewinning pictures, including the portrait entitled "Auntie" by American artist Aleah Chapin. It's a nude, an older woman with pendulous breasts.

I was amused by Brian Sewell's response to this. In The Evening Standard, he wrote,
Silhouetted against a white ground embellished with meaningless blotches of ochre, this ancient crone stands life-size, full-frontal and stark naked, heavy breasts drooping low, skin stretched and sagging, looking as though, par-boiled and with the lividity of death about her lower quarters, she has just escaped from a cannibal’s cooking-pot. This is the figurative realism of the new American academic painter — no sympathy gentles the stark observation of every detail, nor is desire roused; instead, this painting stimulates revulsion.

Had the painter stopped at the neck, this would have been a portrait of sorts; had she included the shoulders, it would still have been a portrait; but below them it becomes a grotesque medical record, the body disproportionately large. Did Miss Chapin not see that in her obsession with the ghastliness of ageing flesh, she had enlarged this repellent body beyond the scale of the head and given primacy, not to the implications of the face — the eyes purblind, the slight smile a rictus, the tousled hair perhaps some indication of character — but to the belly-button and the breasts. Could the judges not see this too? Just think: the National Portrait Gallery took down the nudes of Freud to award a prize to this. 
Maybe some people will be revolted, perhaps because the only nudes they usually see are the photoshopped variety in porn magazines. Someone has commented on Sewell's verdict:
I know you don't have much experience of these things but this is what the majority of women you see shopping in John Lewis who are the same vintage as Auntie look like when undressed. Shocking I know but I'm sure their husbands are in similar shape and love them all the same.
The reference to Sewell's "experience" is about his sexuality, I suppose, which appears to be confused.

I find Sewell's opinion strange, since he compares this painting with the paintings by Lucian Freud, many of whose nude subjects were not conventionally attractive, including the grossly obese Sue Tilley. If Sewell had studied life drawing and painting, as I did, he'd have found himself faced with an assortment of models, some young and beautiful, others past their best. All were interesting subjects, not to be dismissed with comments about their "ghastliness". I remember one older woman who was a regular subject. When dressed she wore a corset reinforced with whalebone (or the equivalent). When this was removed, her flesh fell into folds like a Michelin Man, marked for the first half hour or so by perpendicular lines left by the whalebone, so that she looked as though she'd been encased in a basket. I didn't find her body revolting. No one should be referred to as revolting, unless their behaviour warrants it.

I prefer David Lee's view of Auntie, from his Jackdaw magazine:
Auntie seems not to be fully in the present and invites thoughts of how in old age personalities, histories, gradually dissolve. It is a nicely judged picture, and there’s love in it.
Poor Brian. One wonders how much love there is in his life?