An oft-repeated complaint in the Art Community is the lack of sufficient funding, usually government, for the arts. Art, as we all know, is a good thing, and as a society we should have a lot of it.
So far, so good.
Further, for the cost of one shitty fighter aircraft we can do a great deal of arts funding, and since
the airplane is arguably a net loss to society, maybe we ought to fund arts instead. Setting aside the
fact that the airplane is, essentially, a thoroughly successful make-work project, this again seems
fairly sound. Fewer military jets, more sculptures.
What I have not seen addressed is what on earth we are supposed to do with all this art.
If we increased funding by, oh let's go crazy, say 10x, we would presumably have many times the amount
of contemporary art being made. Probably not 10x, but maybe 2x or 3x, and the artists would be a lot
less stressed out. It's not clear who would be waiting tables at local restaurants at this point, but
again, let us set that aside along with the "military procurement as a very complicated welfare project"
problem. Maybe the out-of-work aerospace engineers will wait the tables.
Free markets are pretty damn good at one thing: working out what the demand for some product is. The
verdict is in on the subject of contemporary art, and that verdict is "not much." The general population
doesn't much care for contemporary art. They like classics, blockbuster shows from previous generations
and previous centuries. To be fair, if you've looked at much contemporary art, it's obvious why.
So let's suppose we get 2x as many books of glum photographs, 2x as many projects involving epoxy and
body hair, 2x as many paintings in whatever the abstract painting theory of today is, 2x as many
angry sculptures of whatever politicians have the prog-left in a tizzy today. What happens to all this shit?
As of now most of it ends up in a dumpster within a few months already. It doesn't sell, nobody is
interested, the artist gives up or stops paying rent, and into the dumpster it goes.
I will stipulate that making art is good for people, even if the art does go straight into a dumpster.
That said, I am not entirely comfortable with the idea of a government funded "work-as-therapy" program,
at least not unless everyone gets to play, which just turns into Universal Basic Income.
My dark suspicion is that the artists calling for more funding generally would be satisfied with simply
redirecting the current funding into their own pockets. If the funding did increase, producing more
art which nobody wants, they would quite likely propose that the problem is that the public is not
educated enough to appreciate the art, which raises the uncomfortable spectre of re-education. I dare
say only a few critics would actually advocate for art-education internment camps; but I am nearly
certain that virtually all of them would blame the public comma education-of for the near universal
disdain for epoxy-and-body-hair projects.
I say this as a guy who is constantly making shit. I make crappy things, I make beautiful things,
I make practical things, and sometimes I make some pretty decent art.
However, I do not presume to inflict my work on everyone. I do not hew to the belief that my work
deserves to be archived forever, no matter how good it is. Even if it's really really good, there's
probably better work, more important work, more appealing work out there. In the competition
to be archived, displayed, appreciated, I do not expect to win. It would be unreasonable to expect
to win, there's so much excellent work out there.
So, I get the desire to make things. I get the desire to be paid, even to make a living, making
things. What I don't get is how that actually works in society, at some vastly increased scale.
What the hell would we actually do with all the art?