Page 15 - Studio International - February 1971
P. 15

British art on anything like the same scale,'   Correspondence                       the money gained from charges would go to the
          Mr Heron writes. 'As far as I know, London has                                       institutions concerned. It has been repeatedly
          never seen retrospective exhibitions by : Robert                                     stated by the Government that this is not the
          Adams, Kenneth Armitage, Trevor Bell, Peter   In opposition to museum & gallery charges   case. In fact, the proposal is nothing less than an
          Blake, Reg Butler, Patrick Caulfield, Lynn   The excellent editorial in January's number on   announcement of the imposition of a tax on
                                                     the Government's intention to introduce charges   artistic enjoyment. Artists will not benefit from
          Chadwick, Bernard Cohen, Robyn Denny,
                                                     for admission to national museums and galleries   the charges, if imposed; if anything, they will
          Elizabeth Frink, Terry Frost, Patrick Heron,                                         lose through decreased attendances.
                                                     is most welcome in that it draws attention to an
          Anthony Hill, Roger Hilton, Paul Huxley, Allen                                          Future plans of the Campaign depend on
                                                     issue which has been overshadowed by other
          Jones, Justin Knowles, Kenneth Martin, F. E.                                         contingencies such as the nature of the
                                                     matters. Most of the arguments against this
          McWilliams, Eduardo Paolozzi, Bridget Riley,   proposal are set out in the editorial but, before I   implementation of the proposal. One thing which
          Wiliam Scott, Joe Tilson, William Turnbull,   give a brief account of what has been done in   might be effective—a threat by artists to withdraw
          Michael Tyzack, John Wells, Brian Wall or   opposition, a few words on principles.   their support from all Government-sponsored
          Bryan Winter.' Mr Heron then asks : 'How on   National museums and galleries have been   organizations concerned with the Arts, and by the
          earth can the younger British artists and critics   free for so many years that any alteration of this   owners of works to withdraw them from the
          be expected to know what's been done in this   policy represents a fundamental volte-face. The   national museums and galleries. We would
          country in the last 20 years in the absence of   principle that privilege and income should be   welcome support and suggestions as to future
                                                     dissociated with regard to cultural and   action from readers.
          retrospectives by artists such as these ?'
                                                     educational facilities, though not by any means   Andrew Wright
             Mr Heron then chooses two of these artists —                                      Campaign Against Museum Admission Charges
                                                     universally applied in this country, has had
          the painter Trevor Bell and the sculptor Justin                                      221 Camden High Street, London NWI
                                                     application to national museums and galleries;
          Knowles—for a detailed critical commentary. As
                                                     to change this would be to postpone even further
          I have not seen the work he discusses, I cannot   the day when lack of financial means will not   An artist's survival in this society is precarious
          comment on this aspect of Mr Heron's essay.   entail cultural deprivation. The prospects are   enough already; the proposed museum charges
          But in the course of this discussion Mr Heron   alarming: if this proposal is implemented, it is   will be a further serious interference in the
          makes several points of general interest. One is a   very likely that the University Grants Committee   creative life of many for whom the art galleries
          passionate aesthetic defence of the 'hand-  will feel impelled to apply charges to University   are part of their work-situation. For this reason
          painted' surface as against the use of `sprayguns   museums and galleries; worse, local authorities   alone artists should give all the support they can
          and rollers and other methods of applying paint.'   may well follow the Government's lead with   to the Campaign Against Museum Admission
                                                     respect both to municipal museums and galleries,   Charges.
          His peroration on the merits of 'brush work'
                                                     and to public libraries.                     Beyond the personal involvement there is the
          will no doubt sound antediluvian to many                                             larger question of the widening gap between the
          (younger) ears, but it nonetheless recalls to us   For these reasons, and many more, the
                                                     Campaign Against Museum Admission Charges,   artist and his potential public. Coming at a time
          one of the essential constitutents and one of the                                    when many artists are trying to achieve a direct
                                                     the idea for which came from the artist Pamela
          central issues of painting as an art. He discusses,   Zoline, began to organize opposition late in   confrontation with the rest of the community
          too, some of the aesthetic problems of the so-  November. Strategy dictated two courses of   through more public art-forms, these proposed
          called 'shaped canvas' and of what he calls low-  action. On the one hand, we secured the support   charges are a step in the opposite direction;
          flung 'floor sculpture' in relation to the actual   of many eminent artists, scientists, academics,   they will increase the monetary barriers to
          physical spaces they occupy. Mr Heron      etc, in order to gain influential help and to attract   communication. Once again art is being obscured
          remains in possession of a marvellously acute   publicity. A public meeting was held on   by its potential as revenue. This regressive step
          visual sensibility, and the nonpolitical passages   14 December, speakers including Jennie Lee,   should be opposed by any effective means.
          in this essay remind us once again of what an   Roy Strong, Sir Dennis Proctor, Lady Longford   Peter Joseph
                                                     and Maurice Wilkins (over moo people attended).   Tim Dreyer
          excellent critic he can be when his attention is
                                                     As a result, the Campaign became generally   London NW5
          fully engaged by a work he admires.
                                                     known and offers of support and help flooded in to
             But the 'Two Cultures' essay is, alas, a   HQ at 221 Camden High Street, NWI. Various   Closure of Howard Wise
          political act—an attempt to bring down the   organizations, notably the NUS and the NUT,   It is with mixed emotions that I inform you that
          American juggernaut. 'What British artists are   made offers of active help. On the other hand, the   the show, 'Three Sounds' by Howard Jones,
           up against at this moment,' he writes, 'is not the   mobilization of public opinion was begun, chiefly   which closed December 19, was the last exhibition
          competition of a school of American artists of   by means of the launching of the petition. This is   at my Gallery.
          overwhelming brilliance; but a gang of     important for at least three reasons —it will help   It may seem paradoxical to you that at the
           American art promoters whose Madison      to convince the Government of the widespread   height of the Gallery's success I am withdrawing
          Avenue techniques of publicity, whose ruthless   opposition to their proposal; it encourages   from the exhibition scene.
                                                     signatories to involve in the Campaign the   The most important considerations which have
          cultural chauvinism and whose positively Wall
                                                     organizations with which they are connected;   impelled me to make this decision are that many
           Street financial resources combine to form a
                                                     and, perhaps most important, it may help in   artists, among them some of the most
           gigantic steamroller.' There is, as I say, enough
                                                     furthering the idea of people controlling their   adventuresome, are focussing their energies on
           truth to this observation ot make Mr Heron's                                         works of such scope that these can only be hinted
                                                     own cultural and educational institutions.
           essay worth our serious attention. But one   At the time of writing, the expected debate in   at in the Gallery, and cannot be shown or realized
           cannot help noting that in this turn to political   the Commons on the issue has not materialised,   here. These artists are going out of the Gallery
           combat, Mr Heron has become a pretty      and it is not yet clear whether a Bill would be   into the environment, the sky, the ocean, even
           accomplished chauvinist himself. His deep   required for the proposal's implementation. The   into outer space. Others are seeking imaginative
           respect for certain American painters—he names   Campaign's immediate plans centre around the   ways of utilizing modern technology to humanize
           Rothko, Motherwell, Newman and Reinhardt—  demonstration of opposition by artists in the   people instead of for commercial or destructive
           is, I gather, unaltered by this political campaign.   form of a giant collage made up of small works   purposes, which de-humanize us all.
                                                                                                  Furthermore, as modern technology becomes
           But he now sounds alarmingly like an apologist   and/or statements of protest. The response to this   more sophisticated, artists who use its products
           for everything British. How ironic it would be if   indicates the Art World's general opposition to   as their medium are producing works of
                                                     the proposal. A few artists have responded
           the American steamroller ultimately succeeded
                                                     negatively, stating that museums and galleries   increasing complexity, with result that it
           in flattening this gifted critic into just another                                  becomes increasingly demanding of the Gallery's
                                                     need every financial assistance they can get; the
           two-dimensional ideologue! q              intention is good but the means is unacceptable   resources to mount exhibitions of those who are
           Copyright 1971 by The New York Times Company.   not only for the reasons cited in the editorial but   exploring in depth the potentials of scientific
           Reprinted by permission.                  also because it is based on a false premise—that    developments.
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