Thursday, 25 November 2010

Corporate sponsorship: a necessary evil

The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was now over 6 months ago yet the furore surrounding BP's sponsorship of the Tate already seems long forgotten. The Tate remains a global icon and resolutely refuses to be tainted by the capitalist agenda of an oil giant. Perhaps this signifies that the job of the corporate sponsor is obsolete but far from it. For their generous investment they gain discreet advertising, name association and a venue for corporate entertainment of big cheeses. The public in turn receives a global tourist destination, astounding exhibitions, free entry to an enviable permanent collection and promotion of British art.

In the current climate governmental grants are simply not enough and though the cuts to the DCMS haven't been as harsh as some feared they will still have a knock-on effect throughout the arts industry. If it wasn’t BP sponsoring galleries such as the Tate it would be another corporate heavyweight; their funding has become a necessary evil and beneficial to all. The Tate takes its name from Henry Tate, founder of Tate & Lyle who offered his collection to the nation and a place in which to house it. The company’s alleged murky past in slavery does nothing to abate the flow of visitors, nor to the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Opera House, all of whom BP partners.

Perhaps at times sponsorship can divert attention away from the purpose of the art it sponsors but if anything, the art world enjoys exorcising their democratic right to protest which simply encourages publicity and this can only be a good thing. BP claims their support surmounts to a ‘promoting ideas, inspiring creativity and supporting the social and economic fabric of the UK’ which seems reason enough to accept their funding, at least for the moment. Only when the Tate becomes ‘BP Tate’ displaying petrol pumps in the turbine hall and charging £20 entry should there be any worry. Until this time the arts should continue to take full advantage of the benefits of sponsorship whether it be from oil giants or not.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Francis Alÿs walks the line...

Tate Modern’s exhibition of the simultaneously poetic and political work of Francis Alÿs (b. 1959, Belgium) is not to be missed this summer. The most comprehensive show of the artist’s celebrated work, ‘A Story of Deception’ lends insight into his working method with exquisitely lit vitrines of diagrams for projects, as well as a series of small maquettes on which Alÿs illustrates hypothetical and possibly absurd scenarios with great detail.

Alÿs moved to Mexico City in the 1980s where he has remained since, and began to make work about daily life. ‘Ambulantes’ (1992 - present) is a slide projection comprised of images of people pushing carts loaded with goods, detritus, and even food for sale, exchange, or disposal. These stills within scenarios recall moments of observation, and the countless trajectories of trades people and ordinary denizens of a metropolis, that are often overlooked or ignored.

The theme of walking, which may be considered banal, takes on a central role in ‘The Green Line’ (1995), which chronicles the artist walking along the armistice border, dribbling a can of green paint down the metaphorical line marking the end of the Six Day War between Israel and Jordan in 1967. The meditative and political aspects of Alÿs’s work are also present in ‘The Loop’ (1997), for which Alÿs used his commission fee from an international biennial held in the land bordering San Diego and Tijuana to travel in a loop that avoided the crossing the U.S.-Mexican border.

’When Faith Moves Mountains’ (2002) embodies Alÿs’s reaction to the collapse of the government in Peru in 2000, and depicts 500 Peruvian students simultaneously digging and walking up a sand dune as an illustration of the anticlimactic efforts of Latin American modernization schemes. At the same time, the event may be seen as a success in concerted and active participation with a united focus. Process and progress in medias res take centre stage in this exhibition, and Alÿs’s work continues to prove relevant to our world’s contemporary politics, whilst remaining aesthetically captivating.

- YZ

Thursday, 15 July 2010

New discovery: Culture Label

I recently found this online treasure chest of ‘cultural’ products sourced from 70 museum shops, galleries, artists and cultural institutions around the world. Curated cultural online shopping and so very contemporary. From quirkily designed t-shirts at £15, right up to limited edition Peter Blake prints at £2,000, there is an astonishing array of the eccentric and original. A good place to find presents for your irritatingly trendy skinny-jean-wearing brother (why do boys with legs thinner than my arms insist on wearing these!?) or the artistic bespectacled best friend (Ray Bans obviously).