Tag Archives: Economics

Artistic Plagiarism: a commentary

Learning to steal?

Learning to steal?

I wrote an opinion piece in the Art of England (issue 77,  January 2011) on the issue of artistic plagiarism called “On Learning to Steal”. I start by musing on the usefulness of students learning art by copying works in art galleries. You know the story, littered around the floor are art students busily copying, sketching some work or other. As I note in the article, they seem more like a piece of performance art to a failing art education system, than serious learning. I make the point that this only encourages further theft: “bad artists copy, good artists steal”. They are learning how to steal.

But more worrying, of course, is artistic plagiarism, and I draw attention to a recent high-profile example in Australia. I come down hard and negatively toward artists who maintain an atelier where their job is signing finished works of art (I call them signaturists). I observe that these artists themselves sense this is a con, otherwise, why would one well-known artist preface recent work by saying the work was done personally.

Plagiarism in all its forms is not to be trifled with. In the visual arts, copying is rife, not helped by the ease of cut-and-paste off the internet.

Nevertheless, we must be vigilant of artists who fail, as one artist put it, to adequately reference their sources.

Should art have footnotes?

Want to know more?

An overview of artistic plagiarism by Denis Dutton

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The digital future of 21st century arts organisations

A debate started on the Arts Journal on Leadership/Followership raises a number of challenges for arts groups.

In my view, the simple lead/follow dichotomy is not helpful as arts organisations are both repositories of a society’s culture (on behalf of people) and a way to placing before the public new ideas in way that engages and informs (on behalf of new ideas).

Bruno Frey has commented that people may not need to see the original piece of art itself but perhaps a print would do.

You are there!

Taking that notion further, why are exhibitions not online?  An opening could be a simple ‘app’ instead, and the show curated with additional content and searchable features, individual pieces could be zoomed and viewed in the round.

It would not cease to exist when the exhibition closed — a problem for exhibitions in the real world, and poorly captured in the exhibition catalogue. Few people can actually make it to many openings, and moving art around can damage the art itself. The modern world is increasingly location-independent with the use of smartphones and tablet computers making where we are less important when accessing information, people or events; this is likely to evolve further. Thinking past the current fad for social networking (and something will follow Facebook!) leads to a world where intelligent software ‘agents’ can help individuals find and view the art they are interested in, alert them to new shows.

Perhaps some people may be in a position to attend in person, but generally this is not true.

Digital technology allows time-shifting, so I can view the exhibition when I want and probably reduces my carbon footprint at the same time. The openings can be teleconferenced, so people can attend in real-time or listen to later. If I instead choose to attend, then the app becomes my personal guide, which I can annotate and keep.

Ah, but imagine a gallery of giant video screens, the real art protected. It does challenge us to reflect, as Frey does, on what it really is we want to see when we view art: is the experience of the art object itself (if so, why bother buy the catalogue or art books), an experience few really can have, or is it the art (in which case the sale of posters is explained).

It seems to me that arts organisation leadership might benefit from a dose of ‘disruptive’ thinking to embrace modern possibilities. We now have, for instance, galleries with searchable online catalogues, and we find some degree of interactive art itself, but this is a feature of the art not of the art experience. I wonder if today, the “2 second advantage” (to take from a book of that name) for arts organisations offers a clue on how to move beyond the collection idea to something rather different.

The notion of capturing artistic interests in ‘real time’ would enable a ‘video-enabled’ gallery to be able to anticipate art interests (though mindful that much needs to be made of the random ‘shock of the new’ that accompanies the joy of discovering a new artist), and assemble art for the individual in a way that helps them experience the art more personally. I miss not being able to visit some galleries which house art I like because I simply can’t afford the airfare to visit them — the ability to be telepresent in these galleries would be wonderful and at $£€4.99 worth a lot more than the book.

As I’ve said elsewhere, there’s an app for that.

Just a thought…….

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How to swing the arts funding axe

Arts groups prepare for funding cuts

Arts groups prepare for funding cuts

No doubt many in the arts community are concerned at rising levels of public sector austerity. For many their very existence depends on public funding of one sort or another.

Few, though, will of necessity understand the underlying logic why there are public funding programmes for the arts in the first place, apart from vague notions that the arts are valuable.  But funding the arts gets mixed up in funding culture and that involves public values and what is, and what isn’t, of culture importance.

I have a short piece in the UK magazine, Art of England (Issue 72 August 2010), “How to swing the arts funding axe: a user guide”, which draws on my own experience in policy to present what are essentially four options facing the arts/culture community. Choosing amongst the options would lead to an approach to the use of public funding and have an impact of one sort or another on the shape of culture institutions and the behaviour of artists themselves.

If you are concerned about the ways the arts are funded, but don’t want to read a thick book, this short article may illuminate the issues. Email me with your preferred choice.

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The Artist as Entrepreneur

Spot the entrepreneur

Spot the entrepreneur

Art of England (issue 68, 2010) has published a short piece of mine. It is about the ‘grants welfare state’ and proposes that artists should be funded more as investments, over a few years, leading to artistic and financial success, rather than supported through project grants.

I see this as a recurring theme of relevance to artists as the future for many will require them to become far more entrepreneurial and commercial. Financial difficulties within public sector funders will only be heightened with rising public debt. There is, too, the continuing debate whether art has intrinsic value and should be funded for its own worth — but of course the problem as always is deciding the features of intrinsic worth.

It also points to the need for more commercial content in the post-secondary arts curriculum. Should art schools and business schools develop some common courses for students to hone their abilities?

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Art and Money (creativity and poverty?)

The welfare state is proof of god
Some do indeed worship at the alter of the state.

Most artists don’t make a living at their art, and most people who study art formally fail to develop their studies into a viable career. Writing in Art of England magazine recently, I observed that we should start viewing artists as entrepreneurs. Of course, what we see instead is institutionalised poverty, since government arts grants and various other projects define art in terms of what granting agencies think art is, and one feature is to undervalue the artist’s time. The result in the main is a lot of student quality work, unfulfilled artists beavering away in sheds and back rooms. I believe that all artists want to achieve a measure of artistic recognition and financial independence.

The Independent newspaper (UK) the other day featured the 10 best cheap art to buy. The works art, if that doesn’t stretch the imagination too far, were by and large commercial reproductions, posters and ersatz rubbish you stick on your wall. Given the word cheap, and knowing what prices many real artists sell their work for, the Independent newspaper could just as easily have gone to the trouble of finding 10 artists whose work is affordable, and undoubtedly better. What were they thinking? But perhaps they are just part of the problem for real working artists.

As noted in an earlier post, Bruno Frey’s views on the economics of art are relevant, as he picks apart this iron triangle to show that there are better ways to support successful artists. Indeed, the success of an arts policy in the end depends on the success of artists, and not the production of art. Yet we support the art but not the artist.

Their failure of artists in the main to be entrepreneurial and build successful careers is a criticism as much of artists as the welfare state that protects them.  It should cause considerable dismay and a call to action across the creative spectrum.  I have special criticism for academe where people often begin their art non-career by simply wondering why art as technique is taught at university; it seems bit like teaching undergraduates how to use a pen so they can take notes in class — probably better done elsewhere.

As for the theme of art and money, well, time to end the poverty trap that artists have allowed society to put them in. Oh yes, artists need to make their own way in the world — just like the rest of us. Perhaps the solution is to make that easier.

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