Wednesday 6 October, 6.30pm until 8.00pm, Culturgest, Rua Arco do Cego, Piso 1, 1000-300 Lisbon, Portugal
Venue: Culturgest, Rua Arco do Cego, Piso 1, 1000-300 Lisbon, Portugal
Tickets: Free, tickets available at the venue on the day from 6.00pm
Contemporary discussions of the value of the arts seem far removed from the dusty aesthetics of German philosophy or the patrician connoisseurship of art historians who once claimed to know what they were good for: what was great art and what was not. Yet today, with a cradle of civilisation like Greece even considering putting islands up for sale to pay sovereign debt, the pressure is on artists and institutions to justify their worth. In fact, the arts have for some time made a claim for the important contribution they make to the economy as part of the cultural and creative industries. The recent European Commission Green Paper argues we live in a ‘new digital economy’ where ‘immaterial value increasingly determines material value’. The traditional arts, as well as the film industry, video games, new media, TV and radio, are all said to have value as cultural products and expressions. Claims are made that the arts can play a role in urban regeneration, bringing areas blighted by the death of old industries back to life. Some value the arts for their ability to engage young people with society - turning them away from crime or drugs - and making them better citizens. At the level of international relations, cultural diplomacy provides a reason for valuing and exporting cultural achievements, and may even foster a sense of national pride, of shared belonging.
Some reject such instrumentalism, arguing that art is simply what artists do or what audiences enjoy - that the arts are entirely subjective and all judgements relative. Others raise concerns about what happens to those art forms not so easily defined in terms of supposedly positive impacts. WH Auden famously said, ‘poetry makes nothing happen’. Should poetry receive no government support or funding? Or, if we are to value the arts because they bring in money from tourism, should the director of Lisbon´s Popular Festivals (Festival Popular) take over running the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga? Who then can be trusted to support art that offends or upsets us? For every engaged citizen created by reading great literature, there may well be an alienated outsider or depressed youth.
While some continue to rally around the slogan, art for art’s sake, can this actually mean anything without a language that allows us to talk seriously about the arts? Is it enough for the arts to unsettle and disturb the ways in which we see the world, as well as, for that matter, to confirm them? Or must they rebrand themselves as somehow more directly ‘useful’ in order to justify funding and attention? Do we need the arts as a crucial part of what it is to be civilised or are they just a luxury to be enjoyed when we can afford to do so? Are the arts any good at all?
The discussion will be introduced by Robert Clowes, chairman, Brighton Salon.
convenor, The Academy; author, Being Cultured: in defence of discrimination
professor, ISEG; former Minister of the Economy; report author, The Cultural and Creative Sector in Portugal
|Jorge Silva Melo|
artistic director, Artistas Unidos; founder, Teatro da Cornucópia
curator, contemporary art, Culturgest
director, Institute of Ideas; panellist, BBC Radio 4's Moral Maze; author, I Find That Offensive
The zeitgeist is all about joining in – in video games, theatre, TV. But are we losing the ability to sit still?James Meek, Guardian, 21 August 2010
Factory floors are progressively being replaced by creative communities whose raw material is their ability to imagine, create and innovate.European Commission, 27 April 2010
Construção de um modelo conceptual próprio para medir, pela primeira vez e sem ambiguidades, a relevância económica do Sector Cultural e Criativo em Portugal, em termos de Emprego e de Valor Acrescentado Bruto.Augusto Mateus, Augusto Mateus & Associates, 1 March 2010
Mindless, clichéd, indiscriminate cheerleading is the last thing classical music needs just now, as it finds itself increasingly challenged to prove its relevance in the multicultural, anti-elitist, pop-saturated arts climate of the 21st century.James Oestreich, New York Times, 10 August 2009
The sciences aim to explain the world: they build theories that are tested through experiment, and which describe the workings of nature and the deep connections between cause and effect. Nothing like that is true of the humanities.Roger Scruton, American Spectator, June 2009
It’s not charity or empty philanthropy. It’s an investment in jobs and our collective soul.Kevin Spacey, The Times, 9 May 2009
Beauty can be consoling, disturbing, sacred, profane; it can be exhilarating, appealing, inspiring, chilling. It can affect us in an unlimited variety of ways. Yet it is never viewed with indifference.
Roger Scruton, Oxford University Press, 26 March 2009
'The men of culture are the true apostles of equality.' Arnold seeks to find out 'what culture really is, what good it can do, what is our own special need of it' in an age of rapid social change and increasing mechanization.
Matthew Arnold, Oxford University Press, 26 February 2009
Why Arts Funding should say no to InstrumentalismClaire Fox, Arts & Business, 4 July 2007
To judge one work of art superior to another is not elitist, it is the mark of cultural engagementDolan Cummings, Culture Wars, 27 June 2005
The critic is becoming a dandified copywriter, producing 'beautiful writing about beautiful objects and their beautiful makers’.JJ Charlesworth, spiked, 1 February 2005
The value of culture cannot be expressed only with statistics. Audience numbers give us a poor picture of how culture enriches us.John Holden, Demos, December 2004
The revival of ‘beauty’ in aesthetic discourse draws on the exhaustion of its political impetusJJ Charlesworth, Art Monthly, 31 August 2003