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Yes
54%
 54%  [ 42 ]
No
45%
 45%  [ 35 ]
Total Votes : 77

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Robert Cumming
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 08, 2004 4:04 pm    Post subject: Popular art? Not in my museum Reply with quote

I recently received this letter, which raises a host of interesting issues

Dear Mr Cumming

Why can't publicly-funded museums reflect public taste? I was prompted to write after reading a survey published in January's "Art Business Today" which ranks artists by their print sales. Vettriano, not surprisingly, is top of the list, but where are Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin, or for that matter Titian or Rubens?

Museums perform many roles - not all of them public - and should, I believe, be supported through public funds. But doesn't this carry a public obligation too? Vettriano's place in history is assured - surely recognition awaits the museum director who can bear to open their doors a little wider?

Yours, Marie Stevens


The article referred to is called "Only the best" and can be found on

http://www.fineart.co.uk/Abtonline/Jan04/Frameset.htm

The authors of the article did a survey, and rated the following living artists as most popular, judged by print sales:

1 Jack Vettriano
2 Gillian McDonald
3 Mackenzie Thorpe
4 Kay Boyce
5 Sue Macartney-Snape
6 Steven Townsend
7 Mary Ann Rogers
8 Jonathan Shaw
9 David Dipnall
10 Charlotte Atkinson

The following deceased artists were most popular rated by print sales:

1 L S Lowry
2 Monet
3 Alan Ingham
4 Russell Flint
5 John Miller
6 Mark Rothko
7 Vincent Van Gogh
8 Pablo Picasso
9 Gustave Klimt
10 Henri Matisse

Three of the many issues that come to my mind are:

Who selects what artists are shown at/ bought by the Tate Modern and the RA for example? And who selects the selectors?

There are relatively few public places / institutions where it is possible to see art “live” (compared with music for example). Should Tate Modern and the RA offer a wider choice of “live” art than they do at the moment? [It is one thing to see an artist’s work in reproduction, and quite another to see that art “live”]

If the Albert Hall can host concerts of popular music why can’t Tate Modern and the RA host shows of popular art?

What do you think? Please vote, and register or log-in to write your comment below.


Last edited by Robert Cumming on Wed Apr 14, 2004 1:50 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Sarah Gilmour
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 13, 2004 12:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Surely it is at least partly the job of art and of the museum to challenge popular opinion?
I can't think of anything worse than going to a museum with nothing on it's wall but the top ten pics. Having said that, I think our museums' and galleries' collections are strong and varied enough to only benefit from comparison with the people's choice.
Sarah
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Ellen McAuslan
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 14, 2004 9:44 am    Post subject: Hang the picture (open the debate) Reply with quote

I suppose, if galleries did show, what the article terms, more popular artists, then the work would be up for discussion and criticism. The article defines popularity through sales of reproductions, not bums on seats and not by favourable comment. Buying a card means you like it, you don't discuss it, and certainly don't have to justify it, but a gallery does, and as soon as you put a picture on a wall in a public space then people have something to say about it.
You never know, the arguments that arise over, say, a Tracy Emin, may yet ensue over a Russell Flint hanging (and I do mean painting). A dialogue may benefit us all.
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rebecca virag
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2004 3:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ellen McAuslan's post, I think, raises the issue of different markets and audiences for print sales - and for that mattter greetings cards, postcards etc. - versus works of art in a gallery space. I'm not entirely convinced of a strict correlation between the two, having often resisted buying postcards or prints of 'favourite' paintings in gallery shops usually because the reproduction quality has been so bad. Conversely, paintings I have felt to be less striking in the gallery environment have seemed to lend themselves more successfully to reduction in scale and all the other image restrictions or enhancements used in art merchandise.
Market research is very interesting but should perhaps not be used as a guide to curating.
Having said all this, I am hugely surprised that there are no works by Vettriano in the Scottish National collection, although I'm guessing this might be down to money. Vettriano images have been so successfully marketed to the greetings card industry that the canvases themselves must now command enormous sums.
However, let's hope the new gallery of contemporary art in Edinburgh will seek to plug the gap.
Incidentally, Vettriano aside, I haven't heard of any of the other living artists in that list. Not sure if this is down to sheer ignorance or if it proves my point about different markets ...
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John-Paul Stonard
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 19, 2004 11:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

To reassure the previous contributor: apart from the first one, I'm not sure that anybody has heard of those ten names. When it comes to neglected artists, it seems that Vettriano is in a league of his own.
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Oliver Vicars-Harris
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2004 10:28 am    Post subject: Public taste reflects rather than defines... Reply with quote

Picking up on Rebecca's point, I'm not convinced there is any explicit relationship between new art promoted in our galleries and the imagery which ends up on our walls.
If anything it seems to me that there will always be an inverse correlation between the two and I certainly don't believe that commercial sales should provide an imperative towards collecting policy.
Surely a key role of our major public galleries is to display work by artists who are at the cutting edge of defining new movements long before these have been absorbed into the general artistic repertoire and public conciousness that later emerges as the popular taste reflected in sales of commercial imagery?
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Simon Floyd Royle
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2004 12:02 pm    Post subject: Where sheep may safely gaze Reply with quote

I expect to be guided to great new art when I go to a gallery, and that has to be the curator's role. The question is, are they any good at it? One view is that they are a snobbish clique, ignorant of the world beyond their noses, too spineless to exercise aesthetic judgement, and driven instead by vacuous fads, sponsors "messages" and personal ambition. Another is that they are brave champions of truth and beauty in its most unexpected guises, laying their discoveries before a public of tabloid-wielding yobs. Take your pick.

The only curator we really know about is Saatchi, who belongs in the latter camp. His taste betrays an adman's love of the flashy effect, but who else buys and displays art like he does?

Anyway, in the long run the people will decide, because art needs at least periods of popularity in order to survive. But I don't thing they will follow the curatorial lead as obediently as Oliver Vicars Harris suggests!
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Grace Brockington
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2004 3:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Why not stage serious exhibitions about these top-10 poster artists, which explore the questions raised by their simultaneous popularity and exclusion from academic discussion? We might even discover that there is more to them than their most reproducible images. The history of art is largely a history of artists pushing back the boundaries of accepted practice and perception. From time to time, art historians/curators need to do the same, by reexamining their notions of who and what deserves scholarly examination.
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Simon Thompson
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2004 5:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The debate whether 'popular' art should be included within public museums is one that has surely been argued for centuries - what is populist one decade becomes historical the next.

Surely the fundamental question as to whether popular art is represented within museums should boil down to whether the work is of high enough artistic and sociohistorical merit to be of interest to a public who deserve to view what they want as well as be enlightened and educated.

I believe that it is also a question of juxtaposition. I would feel comfortable to see a Vettriano along side a Van Gogh, although it wouldn't sit at all well with a Rothko.

It is the challenge of a curator to not only give an audience the expected, but also hit them with things that are sometimes shocking and uncomfortable.

My summation would be that visually stimulating and exciting work needn't be the premise of the elite or the populist, it can eminate from all realms of the visual arts.
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Richard Wilding
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 22, 2004 8:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In my view a living artist has a choice to either pursue work of the kind that will sell well as reproductions and sit confortably in the private home, or to pursue a course that will attract the interest of contemporary art galleries and bring media attention.

I do not think it is our role to tell the galleries which artists to display, any more than we should tell artists what style of work to produce.
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