The campaign against arts cuts is gearing up, and the techniques are tried and tested. If you want to get a high-profile message across, sign up some celebrities. That accounts for the starry artist cast, including Damien Hirst, that have joined a campaign against the coalition government’s attack on arts funding.
Interestingly a poll by the organisers of the Threadneedle prize, reported by the BBC, found that two-thirds of its sample thought there should be a change in arts funding with the emphasis moving away from the public purse. Infact 66% said the majority of visual art funding should come from corporate sponsorship and private donations and one fifth thought that visual art should get no state funding at all.
It appears that the majority of voters have so far accepted the inevitability of cuts in public funding across the board in principle, even before any details have been revealed. The coalition has put across its view of the deficit and the urgency of severe measures well. If people are not yet on the streets to protest cuts in welfare, why would they be agitated about the fate of art?
The high cultural place given to art and artists during the New Labour years may ultimately work against the campaign opposing cuts. Partly because there would seem to be an obvious problem in using the likes of Damien Hirst to protest against reducing public funding when he has made such a lot of money in the name of public art. Some may argue that it is the likes of Hirst who should be investing and re-investing not the tax payer. It seems unlikely that anyone outside the art world, is going to see him as a plausible voice against arts cuts?
Sadly, this success of contemporary British artists is a major reason many people will support cuts to visual art funding. If there is one thing the public seems to believe about art it is that artists make piles of money out of what isn’t perceived as proper art. What many people want to see is skillful drawing, painting and sculpting not abstract ideas. However it's no use the art community complaining about this image when it has spent the last few years extravagantly flaunting connections with big money. Museums have deferred to commerce to a much greater extent in the last decade than ever seemed possible before.