Royal Academy of Arts – Propaganda and Culture

Grant WoodUp The Smoke Friday night. Two very good exhibitions at the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly. “America after the Fall, Paintings in the 1930s” had a lot of work that had been overshadowed by more fashionable, abstract styles. Some, like Grant Wood, were almost childlike yet others dealt with gritty issues such as Thomas Hart Benton who depicted the lot of African Americans in the 30s.

Then “Revolution, Russian Art 1917-1932”. Very clever to juxtapose the two exhibitions. The Soviet art all industry and architecture, peasants and athletes. Mostly paintings but some sculpture and a few examples of tableware depicting socialist aparatchiks. A fantastic painting of Lenin showing humanity in his face perhaps painted before he was completely obscured by politics. Most of the work fairly authoritarian and ideological of course but, for me, this had an odd resonance with 21st century political correctness – Every TV American police chief a black man; a token gay in every sit-com and womans “turn” to play Doctor Who. Creative control managed by check lists. New York and London as templates for the world. 21st Century political correctness is no less social engineering than the Soviet art.

I’m starting to wonder if all ideologies follow a similar curve. They start with an optimistic minority encouraging various causes (equality, community, solidarity, diversity) and end by a  authoratarian minority “calling out” anyone with nuanced opinions for straying too far from the script.

Eat Up

Eat Up

Within the past week, Ming Campbell appears to have banned the word “foreigner” and the woman who has run Woman’s Hour for the last thirty years has been told her opinions on womanhood are “hurtful”. In the end people get sick of pictures of commissars on their dinner plates.

The exhibition was very busy and we had to book a specific time for the visit to allow the proprietor to maximize the profit from the art. Lou Reed claimed that he was an artist and not a businessman but these days you couldn’t fit a cigarette paper between the two. In the 21st Century all human endeavor is business and paintings are just another piece of capital infrastructure like cotton mills or computers. They must be worked continuously to maximise efficiency.

Many companies run night shifts to ensure work is constantly shoveled into their machines and the RAA should do likewise. Flexible pricing, discounts for coach trips and vouchers given away with donuts. Load smoothing. Bill Gates or Phillip Green might pay extra for a glass of champagne and the right to hold a party there. Students could be given discounts to squeeze in before 6am. The key is to ensure that at least somebody is being pushed past the art 24 x 7. I hear that they’ve installed a conveyor belt for the Mona Lisa…or was that the Crown Jewels? Of course nobody would want to visit at 3am so you could pack in the homeless. Have some art millionaire claim government funding for bringing “culture” to the masses. All the drunks and druggies herded in after closing time. Tab smoking warehousemen in khaki coats pushing them along with wide brushed old brooms.

Didn’t I see a BBC Four program about using Virtual Reality to view real art? Why not use HD cameras to import physical artworks into computers then kit out Battersea Power Station with ten thousand VR headsets. Have cruise ships dock there and herd the tourists inside and let them blunder around in the dark. Better still let them plug in from home. Email them the template file to print a VR headset on their 3D printers. While we’re at it we could also digitise the inside of a single London apartment and flog it ten thousand times as an investment.

Battersea Power Station

Battersea Power Station

As my train crawled back across Grosvenor Bridge I noticed that Battersea Power Station is now almost completely surrounded by luxury flats for Chinese investors. This is a key policy of the Vision for London. Every historical landmark to be entombed in a block of flats and the flats flogged to rich foreigners as investments. Battersea Power Station will be followed by St Paul’s Cathedral and The Royal Albert Hall. The Vision was developed by PWC and is entitled “Selling Our Arse – Profit through globalisation and diversity¨.

This is what The Soviets should have done with Chernobyl really. Built a sarcophagus of apartments around it and included a viewing platform and theatre as a sop to the left. That was the trouble with your Soviets, no commercial sense. Beautiful “wheat fields, Over Kiev and down to the sea” but a complete failure to grasp the economic potential of making a drama out of a crisis.