Privatizing Culture: Corporate Art Intervention Since the 1980’s

| February 2, 2011

Title: Privatizing Culture: Corporate Art Intervention Since the 1980’s.

Author: Chin-Tao Wu

Publisher: Verso (May 2002)

Check it out: N5207 .W83 2002

From the publisher:  The dirty little secret of the art world today lies far hidden from its everyday internecine controversies, uniting everyone from the most “subversive” installation artist to the snootiest tiara-sporting socialite: it’s that they really, really like the wads of corporate cash that underwrite the whole shebang. How this state of affairs came to be and how it presently operates are the subject of New Left Review contributor Wu’s sobering and incisive book, which lays bare as never before the incredibly cozy and self-serving nexus of “public” funding agencies, foundations, dealers, galleries and artists, in Britain, the U.S. and increasingly in Europe. The Thatcher and Reagan administrations, Wu argues, glimpsed a way of not only offloading onto the corporate sector the never particularly popular public funding of art, but of helping corporate interests buy art world respectability and cachet at wholesale rates. Of course, all of this has been written about before, but Wu’s strength is in her meticulously researched, number-crunching descriptions of the mechanics behind it. Most surprising is the extent to which the supposedly public money-saving initiatives of corporate sponsorship were really an excuse for sweetheart tax write-offs that cost the taxpayers even more than straight funding of the NEA and similar institutions. The effect on the art world is harder to map, but Wu convincingly lays out an Alice in Wonderland world in which Donald Judd sculptures become drink holders, minimalism becomes especially valued for its lack of discernible content, and the most scabrously anti-corporate art becomes witness instead to the hipness and munificence of its intended target. Wu convincingly tells an ugly story of seduction and betrayal(and shows it in 40 b&w and 20 color illustrations), one that anyone who cares about the future of art needs to hear.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.