OPINION: Conflicts of Interest Add Color & Texture

K Haring's Andy Mouse:

On Faso’s Brushbuzz, a kind of Reddit for the art market, I discovered a seedling of bothersome art theory: one bsherwrin contemplates whether or not “ad sales play a role in shaping art history in the sense that art publications– both online and in print — tend to end up reviewing exhibits at galleries that also happen to pay for ads in the publication?” Leaping from the question to an assumed ethical issue, the  post asks us to discuss the question:  “Should art magazines– and art blogs that feature an art-focused ad network for that matter– avoid a conflict of interest by not reviewing exhibits at galleries that also purchase ad space in the publication?”

Now people, we LIVE in a well-documented network of “conflicts of interest.” Conflicts of interest are de rigeur in every field. And conflicts of interest have been a part of the playing field in the arts for decades now, and are more and more the norm.

We have artists who are curators, advisors, arts writers and bloggers (just check out the bios on Facebook!). We have museums who have collectors who are artists who are guest curators who place their own works in the show. We have curators and art consultants who collect art themselves (a quickie browse through Linked In should show many of these). We have museum directors who are ex-gallery owners who have a vested art historical interest in the artists they supported in their earlier career. Hell, we’ve even had large corporations put up a pop-up gallery on public property in order to display artists who’s work echoed and celebrated the company’s designs — artwork that the company then had contracted to hold first rights to purchase.

Reading an article about a show at a museum? Well, I suggest grain of salt, my friends. No one’s even trying to be “objective” any more and, honestly, it’s time to move on.

OPINION: What’s The Matter With Kansas?

Some say, Publicly Funded Arts Programs

by guest blogger, David Kaplan

After the bitter brinksmanship that ended with the much-reviled increase in the debt ceiling, talking about the topic of public funding for the arts seems like an act of futile indulgence. The nation is facing potential cuts to Social Security and Medicare, and you want to talk about government support for miniscule cultural centers in fly-over country?

Next topic!

I hear you. But de-funding  the arts can have a chain of deleterious implications for the personal livelihoods of creative individuals and the economic viability of towns and regions across the country. And it will pit worried cultural institutions — those that nourish interest in the arts in places that can’t afford to put on blockbuster attractions like Alexander McQueen’s show at the Met — against each other for increasingly scarce private funding.

The NYT profiles Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s draconian cuts to the state’s arts programs. Or, I should say, the state’s former arts programs: Brownback has completely eliminated Kansas’ public funding of the arts. That’s right, it’s gone from a proposed budget of $689,000 to zero.

As the article notes, Kansas is a rather extreme example of a growing trend: Texas sliced its arts spending by 50 percent, while New Jersey chopped its arts support by 23 percent and Wisconsin issued a 67 percent decrease. Says Bill Ivey, Director of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy,

 “The positioning of arts within the public policy arena has always been tenuous. The arts are considered an amenity — nice to fund when you have a bit extra but hard to defend when the going gets tough.”

Money is kind of a dirty word in the arts. That’s part of the reason conservative administrations have been so emboldened about cutting cultural dollars from their budgets. The arts community – including the private marketplace of dealers, galleries and large museums – need to impress upon lawmakers that arts funding promotes education, local commerce and serves as a crucial connection to the regional and national economy by serving as an incubator for new artists and curators.

Every urban area that has dealt with decay has found that if you attract the artists and the galleries with cheap rent and support,  areas that were written off as dead suddenly become vital. And this is true also for rural areas, that can use art as a foundation for creating a sense of community and character that attracts visitors with money to spend, thus lifting up other businesses that may have little connection to culture.

To most people, art is a luxury, the ultimate symbol of elitist extravagance that does nothing to build roads or remove trash. But the people and groups who create it and promote art, know that it provides necessary enrichment that contributes mightily to the lifeblood of American cities, towns and, yes, Gov. Brownback, states.

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