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January 30, 2004

NEA Gripes

Dear Friedrich --

Alan Sullivan's posting (here) about Bush's plan to increase the budget of the National Endowment for the Arts strikes me as very sensible. Like Alan, I'm a pro-arts guy who'd like to see the NEA killed -- for the good of the arts. IMHO, of course, and despite whatever good the NEA has been responsible for, it's also been responsible for much that's bad in recent art: for the development of a topheavy arts-adminstrator class; for turning the arts into a welfare client, with all the psychological damage that usually entails; and for guaranteeing that the arts will be more politicized than they'd otherwise be.

Hey, here's a good interview with an NEA critic.



posted by Michael at January 30, 2004


Another take on this:

"Subsidies to the Arts:
Cultivating Mediocrity"
by Bill Kauffman


Dave Lull

Posted by: Dave Lull on January 31, 2004 1:39 PM

Dave Hickey's book Air Guitar is loaded with a smart art-lover's critical thoughts about state-certified art. Consider this, from his essay "Frivolity and Unction":

If I praise a work in a commercial space, I invest words in it and risk my reputation. In doing so, I put pressure on the price by hopefully swaying public opinion. If I praise an exhibition in an institutional space, however, I am only confirming public policy. And since no art is for sale, I am really doing nothing more than the institution itself: giving the artist "exposure" (which should be a felony) and reinforcing the idea of art as a low-cost, risk-free spectator sport when in fact it is a betting sport. Thus, my institutional bets are nothing more than fodder for grant applications and resumes--a fact that becomes clear when I choose to detest an institutional exhibition, since, in doing so, I am questioning the fiduciary responsibility of expending public funds on such an exhibition and undermining the possibility of future funds. This, I have discovered, is taken very seriously indeed, although it has nothing to do with investing art with social value and everything to do with art's presumed, preordained virtue and the virtue of those who promote it.

Posted by: Daniel on February 2, 2004 11:58 PM

Dave -- That's a great link, many thanks.

Daniel -- I like Hickey too, and thanks for reminding me about that passage. Any coincidence, do you think, that Hickey's also one of the people responsible for giving the notion of beauty a little credibility again?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 3, 2004 2:35 PM

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