Monday, December 31, 2007

On Patrons

Prior to the 20th Century, artists and writers were more often than not supported by patrons. Since the advent of the 20th Century, though, most artists and writers have been supported by their wives and girlfriends. And this is supposed to be an improvement over traditional patronage. People make arguments for government patronage, but show me one famous artist or literary writer who was supported by the government? True, many of the artists and writers of the past were supported by kings and other members of government -- no doubt with tax money -- but the patronage was still personal. Chretien de Troyes was not supported by the French government as a nameless, faceless, bureaucratic entity, but by the King of France personally. His works stand as a testimony to that patronage. The reason why no great artist has been supported by our government, or by any government like ours, is precisely because such governments are bureaucratic. No one is making the decision, and thus no judgement can be made. No values are involved, and thus good artists and writers cannot be chosen. This is why our government now funds art indirectly. In fact, much art funding occurs through foundations and involve committees, which inevitably choose whatever is "safe," meaning, nothing interesting or challenging or great. Great art is not selected by committee.

What the world needs is a return of personal patronage. There is and will be resistance to this precisely because of such nonsense as "selling out," something many artists get accused of anyway. Well, de Troyes was a sell-out, and literary writers only wish they had written works as wonderful as his.
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