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Patronizing the Arts

Patronizing the Arts

Marjorie Garber
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Patronizing the Arts
    Book Description:

    What is the role of the arts in American culture? Is art an essential element? If so, how should we support it? Today, as in the past, artists need the funding, approval, and friendship of patrons whether they are individuals, corporations, governments, or nonprofit foundations. But asPatronizing the Artsshows, these relationships can be problematic, leaving artists "patronized"--both supported with funds and personal interest, while being condescended to for vocations misperceived as play rather than serious work. In this provocative book, Marjorie Garber looks at the history of patronage, explains how patronage has elevated and damaged the arts in modern culture, and argues for the university as a serious patron of the arts.

    With clarity and wit, Garber supports rethinking prejudices that oppose art's role in higher education, rejects assumptions of inequality between the sciences and humanities, and points to similarities between the making of fine art and the making of good science. She examines issues of artistic and monetary value, and transactions between high and popular culture. She even asks how college sports could provide a new way of thinking about arts funding. Using vivid anecdotes and telling details, Garber calls passionately for an increased attention to the arts, not just through government and private support, but as a core aspect of higher education.

    Compulsively readable,Patronizing the Artschallenges all who value the survival of artistic creation both in the present and future.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3003-9
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xviii)
    (pp. 1-41)

    Artists have always had patrons. From the time of Maecenas, a wealthy Etruscan noble who supported Virgil and Horace and was duly celebrated in their verse, to the Medicis and later the popes, and then to Isabella Stewart Gardner and the Guggenheim and MacArthur Foundations, rich sponsors have often supported painters, sculptors, and poets. And inevitably, these relationships have been loaded—fraught with over-, and underestimation, with pettiness as well as generosity, with disdain as well as desire.

    The artist had the talent, and the patron the money. In some cases, though by no means all, the dynamic of the...

    (pp. 42-96)

    Testifying before the Subcommittee on Select Education of the House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor in 1978, author John Updike was characteristically blunt about the question of public patronage of the arts:

    I would rather have as my patron a host of anonymous citizens digging into their own pockets for the price of a book or a magazine than a small body of enlightened and responsible men administering public funds. I would rather chance my personal vision of truth striking home here and there in the chaos of publication that exists than attempt to filter it through a...

    (pp. 97-139)

    Controversies over the National Endowments, jousting and posturing by members of Congress, and a few rather tame but nevertheless headline-making scatological scandals that are now the stuff of urban legend—Karen Finley smearing herself with chocolate; Chris Ofili adorning paintings with, or balancing them on, elephant dung; Andres Serrano and his vial of urine—all this has somewhat obscured the fact that most arts funding in the United States does not, unlike in Britain, come from the national or state government. In fact, compared to other modes of organized patronage, government is just a bit player. The real action is...

    (pp. 140-177)

    The phrase “arts and sciences” has become a university catchall, describing, or circumscribing, the wide range of curricular offerings that lead to an academic degree. Within modern universities and colleges, and indeed in general cultural usage, the “arts” are usually grouped with the “humanities,” and for what seems to be a perfectly good reason. Humanities scholars study thehistoryof literature, film, art, architecture, and music, and for most departments in modern universities, that “history” continues to the present day. But historical, formal, textual, and political analysis of the arts, while essential to a university and to the study of...

    (pp. 178-196)

    Where, then, should patronage of the arts reside today? The first answer is the easiest and most uncritical one—everywhere. Public, private, corporate, local, governmental—there seems no reason to discourage funding, or patronage, wherever it emerges, or wherever it happens, for residual, historical, or contingent reasons, to be located at present. But “everywhere” is also “nowhere.” If the oft-cited Medici example, or the Victorian philanthropy model, or the captains of industry as founders of museums and libraries, or the federal and national agencies for the arts, or any other predominant support mechanism, have each had their moments of glory...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 197-220)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 221-234)