“Art in Troubled Times”, a two-part examination of how recession affects the arts, was presented by Alan Yentob in Imagine (BBC1, 21 & 28 July 2009).
One premise was that lack of hard cash means that individuals and corporations alike are no longer willing to invest in ‘big name’ artists, who are consequently forced to ‘downsize’. Conversely, bodies such as the Arts Council and the National Lottery are more likely to award funding to previously unknown individual artists and small, local art groups.
Schemes designed to encourage wider, community access to the arts are also more likely to attract the backing of UK and US governments in times of hardship. Access to the arts is seen as a means of raising public morale as well as satisfying demand for affordable entertainment. The result is a move away from elitism towards a more democratic ‘art for the people’.
Yentob asks ‘In times like these, what is art worth? And what is art for?’ Should it be the preserve of the rich, making fortunes for a few household names? Is it devalued if we curate ‘outsider’ art in galleries? Or is art something we should value for its own sake and for our enjoyment - from a child’s scribbling to the Camera Club’s exhibition, from the Amateur Dramatic Club’s play to ballet and the opera? Tell us what you think.