Culture in the wake of the great depression economic crisis has by the media largely been cast aside, but the melt water is starting to run down throught the foundations of the big art institutions in the US as a recent survey by The Art Newspaper shows. It is the donations and endowments that are being cut, the most important part of funding of most American museums, in certain cases the cuts represent 20% of the total budget. Here in Sweden we have an almost total public backing of our art institutions, as well as considerably smaller budgets (compare the Moderna Museet: 15 million dollar to Minneapolis Institute of Art 193 million dollar) and thus the crisis is internally a mere word and attendance figures have paradoxically during 2008 been steadily rising. The real effects will rather be connected to indivudual artists that are self emplyoed and with no or very scarce capital to re-invest.
A discussion that must be brought to the surface at this time is how the big actors, both museums and galleries alike, will handle the economic deficit and how this deficit will translate to a cultural capital deficit. The LA County Museum of Art states to The Art Newspaper that the cut backs will made first and foremost on staff and travel. Extend this thought to include smaller artistic productions, longer working days and less international collaborations. If a staff of curators travel less and must spend more time on financial rescue missions instead of reading, writing and meeting with artists naturally the scope of the project they occasion will be of a less initiated kind than would otherwise.
The problem with this thought is readable already in this last sentence: art is not assumed to have crises in the inherent processes of production. it is rather construed as a shift of interest from lets say large scale film productions to drawing. Artists take what they can, it is assumed. This line o reasoning has no advocate among critics and theorists alike since the economic analysis is by and large non-existing in art criticism, thus the political analysis is basically reduced to a ”distribution of the sensible”, using theorist Jacques Ranciére, a way of negotiating the public sphere to include everyone and all. The notion that art can at times be steered into shaky and dangerous grounds due to the institutional redistribution of means of doing and thinking of art is a exactly the reason we have found ourselves in a non-functioning economy in the first place.
Critics please react economically!, and to Raphel Rubinstein: a big shout out!