Why isn’t there adequate funding for today’s artists?

The oligarchs and their playthings: The private museum comes into its own

Almost all new museums opening up over the past 25 years have been privately financed and controlled, while government-funded institutions are being systematically starved of resources. US states and localities have cut or entirely eliminated cultural subsidies, while federal art programs are being decimated by sequestration. – Nancy Hanover, 01/09/2014, wsws.org

Furthermore, if one considers that if the $142.4 million recently spent by Roman Abramovich for Francis Bacon’s 1968 Triptych, were instead divided into artist grants of $50,000 each that the money locked up in one painting could instead provide support of 2840 working artists for a year. In the world of artist grants, a $50K grant would actually be HUGE. Most artist grants available today are in the range of $1000-$5000, barely enough for project expenses and in no way cover an artist’s living expenses – which in fact are even more important factor in an artist’s ability to accomplish his/her work. One of the few grants as large are 50K is the Guggenheim Fellowship, of which by comparison only 200 are awarded a year.

Not that it isn’t a great painting, but the Bacon painting being purchased for such an astronomical figure is like a giant vacuum unnecessarily sucking up resources that could be freed up for far more productive purposes. Not to mention that for insurance liability reasons it is less likely to be exhibited in Abramovich’s private St. Petersburg museum, much less travel to other venues. More and more, these new museums of the oligarchs display digital reproductions while keeping the actual artwork locked up in vaults in special art-warehouses in Switzerland, Luxemburg and soon Beijing, where they exist in essentially “offshore accounts.”

The Bacon painting is only the most expensive of scores, if not hundreds of over-valued works of contemporary art being sold each year at the auction houses. The incompatibility of capitalism with the development of art couldn’t be more clear!

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