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March 25 2010

Cash for culture

Cultural Capital arts manifesto calls for a small but 'crucial' public investment

Britain should invest in culture to help economic recovery, says an alliance of arts leaders including the National Theatre artistic director, Sir Nicholas Hytner, and Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum.

Speaking at today's launch of the arts manifesto Cultural Capital, MacGregor said: "We want to give politicians the confidence to put on their CVs not what football team they support, but why life without Schubert is impossible.

"Culture works. This is a bit of national life that is extraordinarily efficient and effective. It is a huge employer and the economic activity it generates is ever more important … Culture gives us our place in the world; it reminds us what we are and what we could be."

Alan Davey, the chief executive of Arts Council England, said the arts should not be immune from pressure to give value for money. But he said: "Every day public money is combined with private funds to produce miracles on a shoestring.

"The cost to the public is less than the cost of half a pint of milk. We need to cherish it and not spill it. It shouldn't be thrown away in a fit of absentmindedness."

The alliance argued that the arts were a growth industry that could have a major impact on the economy with the help of a minimal but crucial public investment. They were also crucial to the life of the nation as a whole, and the way it was seen overseas.

The launch, at the British Museum, was accompanied by the brandishing of a variety of placards bearing the slogan "You can bank on culture", designed by Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Anish Kapoor and Michael Craig-Martin – a sly reference to the modest public sums spent on the arts and culture compared with the amount poured into banking.

Hytner said the arts were in excellent health because of 15 years of public support which began under the Conservatives, with the creation of the National Lottery by John Major. It then continued with over a decade of sustained funding from the Labour government.

Hytner praised the British model of arts funding, which has traditionally relied on a mixture of public and private money and a lack of direct political interference.

He said: "In theatre, it goes back to the Elizabethan model, where work was dependent on income from the box office, sustained by an interest by the Crown, as it was then, and supported by a healthy dollop of private patronage. This model continues to help us take risks that we wouldn't otherwise be able to entertain.

"The National Theatre's production of War Horse, which is generating a great deal of revenue for both us and the private sector, would have been impossible without sustained investment allowing us to create it over the course of 18 months of workshops."

The West End and Broadway, he said, were dominated by plays created with the help of public investment in Britain's subsidised theatres. The argument for continued investment was being made "because the return we give on a tiny investment is worth looking at. We have no sense of entitlement".

The group praised a gradually increased engagement with culture by politicians: "I don't think I remember hearing such a mature conversation from all three parties," said Jude Kelly, artistic director of Southbank Centre in London.

But they also said that British politicians had on the whole been reticent about talking about British arts and culture. According to MacGregor: "There has been a slowness to understand how important arts and culture are in every part of life, in reshaping society, and in people's personal and imaginative fulfillment."

According to the Cultural Capital manifesto, Britain has five of the 20 most visited museums in the world (more than France or the US). The authors write: "The economic benefits of the UK's major museums and galleries alone are estimated to be £1.5bn per annum."

Music contributes nearly £5bn to the UK economy and the economic impact of theatre is £2.6bn a year. When Liverpool was European capital of culture in 2008, £800m was generated for the local economy and 27% more visitors were attracted than in previous years. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

February 19 2010

Lloyd Webber may buy Abbey Road

Composer says it is 'vital' to save recording venue made famous by the Beatles amid concern EMI may sell them

Andrew Lloyd Webber says he is "very interested" in buying Abbey Road studios, saying it is "vital for the future of the music industry in the UK" to save the north London venue where he and the Beatles laid down much of their work.

A spokesman for the composer and impressario said he first recorded there in 1967 with Tim Rice. "Abbey Road has such great facilities, with three major recording studios, and Andrew has probably brought more musicians to record there than anyone else, because it has the capacity to record large orchestral productions."

Lloyd Webber threw his hat into the ring to save the studios, which gave their name to a Beatles album, as concern grew over cash-strapped EMI's plan to sell them.

Sir Paul McCartney has raised hopes that someone will buy them (although hasn't promised to try himself) and the National Trust, already the owner of the childhood homes of McCartney and John Lennon, has expressed cautious interest after DJ Chris Evans suggested it should step in.

The government has promised to fast-track a long-standing recommendation from English Heritage that the 19th century building should be officially listed. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

February 12 2010

Behind the music: Pop goes the easel

Meet the rock managers who've spotted an opening for them to bring expertise and experience – as well as funds – into the art world

Music and the visual arts have had a loose relationship for decades. From the 60s onward, bands like the Beatles, The Who and Roxy Music all had at least one member who went to art school before embarking on a music career. Others, like Tony Bennett and Ronnie Wood, pursued careers as painters in the later part of their careers.

Still, the funding and business side of the visual arts has traditionally been dominated by trust funds, the rich and corporate City patrons. There is evidence that this is starting to change. As the music business became more lucrative, so artists such as Madonna, Sir Elton John, Jarvis Cocker, Brian Eno and his ex-band mate Bryan Ferry invest much of their accumulated wealth in both modern and classical art. Even Kylie, Robbie and the Gallagher brothers have been seen in art galleries and auction houses.

Music manager and promoter Raye Cosbert thinks that the art community can gain more than just funding from the music industry – he thinks it could use the expertise and experience gained from manoeuvring some of the most successful music careers of the last couple of decades. That's why this week he along with artist agent Serena Morton launched new art venture Morton Metropolis.

If anyone should know how to nurture the talented, but emotionally fragile, personalities that frequently populate the art world, it's Cosbert. He has managed Amy Winehouse since the spring of 2006, and has also worked as a promoter with acts such as Blur, Robbie Williams, Lily Allen, Massive Attack and Björk.

"Developing talent, that's what I do," he says. "I find it and I A&R it, which I guess could be called curation." Cosbert thinks that although accessibility to music has changed the music business, what hasn't changed is that talent still needs to be found and nurtured. "The middle man is still important. What Serena does is to transpose my experience into the art world."

Morton had taken Cosbert, a personal friend, to artist Gerald Laing's studio to see his piece Belshazzar's Feast, based on a picture featuring Raye at a table with Amy Winehouse reaching for a bottle of champagne at the Ivor Novello awards. From then on, Cosbert's interest in the art world grew.

The idea for the project came about after a chance encounter with another music manager – Pat Magnarella, who looks after Green Day. "Pat was the first music industry person to truly spot the market," explains Morton. Last year, Magnarella's management signed up UK visual artist Charming Baker – giving him some rock'n'roll-style promotion – and recruited Morton to work on a US art show for them.

"I introduced Raye to Pat," she continues. "and seeing what Pat was doing in the US got Raye thinking along the same lines."

"The art world is ready for some new blood," says Morton, who joined Christie's 20th century and contemporary British arts department in the 90s and set up one of the first pop-up shows in London's Brick Lane in 1998. "We want to make it more fun."

Morton Metropolis is funded by Cosbert and, he says, Morton provides "15 years of eye". The gallery opens with an exhibition of prints by Gerald Laing, including Belshazzar's Feast, and is aptly located on Berners Street, where the Perfoming Right Society and UK Music are also situated. The company will focus on artists in their mid-careers, aiming to spot talent that has been overlooked by the more established houses. "We want to provide a safety net for our artists," says Cosbert.

Winehouse's manager thinks he can take the business of art forward. One thing artist managers and concert promoters know about is risk management – they understand the intricacies of profit and loss. In the same way that a record label can use the profit from one successful artist to underpin the funding for another whose music isn't selling well enough, so Cosbert and Morton say that if they're able to help two artists to become the new Hockney, they can afford to support other up-and-coming artists with the profit.

"Art is long, life is short," says Cosbert. "I was tired of going to my friends' houses, seeing Ikea pictures on the walls. I haven't felt this excited for a long time."

But maybe there's more to it than that. As the internet has made music more disposable, easily transferable and downloaded for free, the visual art world may in the future become even more alluring to people in the music business. After all, you can't download a painting, installation or sculpture. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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