Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Early closing


Anish Kapoor appears to be a good bloke. Not only does he create large-scale artworks involving mirrors and catapults, that manage to please bohemian chin-strokers and casual passers-by alike, but he has declared his support for his fellow artist Ai Weiwei, who is being held by the Chinese authorities: Kapoor has dedicated his new installation in Paris to Ai, who has been accused of unspecified “economic crimes”.

But what, apart from dignified speeches, can an artist do? Gestures might mean something on China’s doorstep – as the artists of Hong Kong are attempting to prove – but what about Paris or London or New York? Kapoor revealed his preferred tactic on this morning’s Today programme: “Perhaps all museums should be closed for a day.”

Now, as a writer and a blogger, I’m as guilty as anyone of ranting from the sidelines then hiding before anyone suggests I might care to don the captain’s armband. But I’m trying very hard to picture a senior Party apparatchik in Beijing hearing the dread news that the V&A will be shut next Thursday and immediately ordering that the beardy artist should be released. Maybe stick to the mirrors and catapults, mate.

9 comments:

Rog said...

Let's hope they don't decide to retaliate by closing Foxconn for half a day which would have a pretty noticeable effect on the Western Twitterati.

Plus the demand for catapult parts is inelastic....

Annie said...

Usually I like Anish Kapoor, but I saw his Olympic sculpture going up on the way to work & it's hideous. I think the pressure got to him.

We are back to your 'Is art useful?' post. What did we conclude again?

Hedgie said...

Hmm - I'm tending to disagree. If this gains momentum in the museum world and many major museums do close in solidarity, that will inspire immense publicity, something that China will find very uncomfortable.

Similar in a way to Mandela in Apartheid South Africa - his immense global fame kept the authorities there from physically harming him, and actually towards the end they became terrified he might die in prison before they could find a pretext to release him.

Tim Footman said...

Indeed, Rog. A 24-hour blockage in global hashtag production would tip several economies back into recession.

I think we agreed that usefulness can be art, Annie. Which is nice.

While I'm sure Kapoor means well, Hedgie, I don't actually think it would work, because the vast majority of people simply wouldn't notice the difference - and those that do are more likely to be those who are aware of Ai's plight anyway. If a major TV station were to cancel all programming for a day and replace it with a picture of Ai, that would grab headlines...

Boz said...

Yes but. Being the idealistic lefty that I am, I reckon any ranting from any sideline helps generate awareness. And awareness does (eventually) change things. There was a piece on C4 news last night on this very thing. That does the same thing.

It might take longer than direct action, but Ai Weiwei is one man. Okay, a more noticeable man because he's a world-famous artist, but there are plenty of others who are experiencing exactly what he is now who go more or less unnoticed.

What's more important, the single man or the wider issue.

I'm going to give up being serious now. It's given me a headache.

blackwatertown said...

It might get some classes of school children writing letters or protesting because their teachers have to come up with a replacement activity.
School kids like a bit of a protest these days.
But yes, I am reaching.

Tim Footman said...

I'm not suggesting closing galleries would do any harm, Boz, and it might provoke a glimmer of publicity, but really, the people who care about locked-up galleries are the same people who already care about locked-up artists.

A bit of a protest, BWT? Like the boy who wore a skirt to school?

Boz said...

I will wear a skirt if the occasion calls for it.

Tim Footman said...

Some comments that seem to have disappeared in the Great Blogger Arse-Up of the past couple of days:

Blackwatertown:
It might get some classes of school children writing letters or protesting because their teachers have to come up with a replacement activity.
School kids like a bit of a protest these days.
But yes, I am reaching.

Me:
I'm not suggesting closing galleries would do any harm, Boz, and it might provoke a glimmer of publicity, but really, the people who care about locked-up galleries are the same people who already care about locked-up artists.

A bit of a protest, BWT? Like the boy who wore a skirt to school?

Keir:
I will wear a skirt if the occasion calls for it.