Monday 5 February 2018

Slap On The Paint

There has been a slew of art programmes on TV recently, mostly from the past now digitised and stitched together in allegedly new features. A bit of cut and paste here and a bit of cut and paste there as possibly Renoir said to his models.

But this is not about critical analysis. We have been watching art coverage on TV now for fifty years and have seen it before. And we are grateful for it, because when carting around the continent with the tent and trailer somehow or other we pitched up at a lot of places associated with artists of the past.

Bombing down the Autoroute it was hard to keep the eyes on the road when you had a clear view of the Mont St. Victoire of Cezanne. Arles was something special. A stay at Pont Aven, then unknown to us literally opened the eyes. This could go on a lot.

The thing that does jar is when a programme is fronted by a bossy, noisy presenter who tries to make it simple and ends up over explaining and filling in with this and that which do not really matter. A case in point is Andrew Graham-Dixon.

One thing that has changed a great deal is that in our 21st Century of money rules all, these days lot of the incidental chat and worth assessment of the art is about the prices. In the series now running on The Royal Collection we get a work of beauty and interest only to have his gurning face giving past and current prices.

Inevitably, the interest is centred on items which cost the Royal buyer of the past hundreds or just into thousands now worth multi millions. If AGD were let loose at the Treasury he would be buying by the cart load claiming public sector expenditure and increasing values. 

There are just a couple of problems. One is who knows what will be fashionable or not in the future? Will antique football programmes be the thing in the year 2318? The other is the putative figures quoted. As any weary economist knows, value then and now depends on the criteria you adopt and the art world is not a mass industry.

Also, the Royal Collection is housed in palaces, other major buildings, and in places where expensive care is necessary. There are curators, restorers and many other employees involved in maintaining and protecting the collection. How much has this lot cost down the centuries? The reason I bought a Ford instead of a Ferrari was the insurance and service costs, never mind the price.

There is also the terrible risk of what could happen. The going and return of a painting of nymphs by Waterhouse at Manchester is an early example. The "ists" may well be soon after the art. Not to sell it but to ban it, deface it or even destroy it because it depicts life and history as we are told to forget it.

It has happened before. In the age of the Tudors the art and decoration of the Medieval Ages was destroyed, painted over or sold off as a new faith replaced the old. Not so long after, Cromwell, short of the readies went for the Royal Collection of the time to sell or offer as security for debts, as well as getting rid of some that were theologically incorrect.

Around the world there have not been simply losses or time taking its toll there has often been outright destruction by the various thought polices of their time and place. You may be able to think of a few where this has happened or more to the point where it can or will happen.

But if only our parents had spent a few quid on some of those odd looking works of L.S. Lowry of places we knew.

1 comment:

  1. "Who knows what will be fashionable or not in the future?"

    Indeed - nobody knows.