Zainub Verjee recently published a terrific piece in Canadian Art titled ‘Are Canada’s Municipal Art Galleries in Crisis?’ In this essay she presents and critiques the background and the mechanics of the funding of municipal art institutions in Ontario and Canada. While the piece is written with a view to finding specific and practical institutional corrections, in my usual theorizing manner, I took up the most general aspect of this fine piece, and submitted a post on ‘the place of ART in the neo-liberal economy’ in the comments section of the article.
While the evisceration of funding in this scenario has diminished ART in its aspect of ‘GIFT’ (be it from artist, patron, province or municipality), ART has gained in its aspect of ‘ENTERPRISE’ (profits, accounting and so on). This has had consequences for the relationship between audience orientation (appeasement) and curatorial integrity (elitism). As we hurtle through this uncultured epoch (Kali Yuga no less!), I suggest the foregrounding of the aspect of art as ‘VOCATION’ in the understanding that will, paradoxically, be radical and ameliorative at the same time. This intervention will, of course, have to be set within the wider re-configuring (it might take a revolution or two!) the global political-economy.
A crisis is coming to our societies, heralded by the technologically driven ‘END OF WORK!” Economic entities – nations, provinces and municipalities need to develop new valuation and funding criteria and practices for creative life endevours … We (cultural actors) should all be sustained by our societies for doing what we do … perhaps going beyond contemporary definitions of quality, professionalism and connoisseurship. After all, as implied in Zainubs piece, the neoliberal dearth of arts funding has brought about a crisis about who determines ART – Audiences or Curators! We should develop new models of presentation and, as a corollary of this, new modes of funding for galleries in Ontario, Canada and elsewhere in the world!
Thank you Zainub for setting up the perfect ground for this long and critical process!
Zainub Verjee is an accomplished writer, critic, artist, arts administrator and public intellectual. Verjee was the co-founder and festival director of In Visible Colours: An International Film/Video Festival and Symposium for Third World Women and Women of Colour (1988–90) and is currently the executive director at the Ontario Association of Art Galleries, which fosters a sustainable, healthy, diverse, public art gallery sector to further the visual arts as a key component of the cultural life of the province.