Chuck Close Justifies Public Art Expenditures
Chuck Close is an American artist noted for his highly inventive techniques used to paint the human face. He is best known for his large-scale, Photo-Realist portraits.
In 1988 a spinal blood clot left Close almost completely paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. A brush-holding device strapped to his wrist and forearm, however, allowed him to continue working. In the 1990s he replaced the minute detail of his earlier paintings with a grid of tiles daubed with colourful elliptical and ovoid shapes. Viewed up close, each tile was in itself an abstract painting; when seen from a distance, the tiles came together to form a dynamic deconstruction of the human face. In 1998 the Museum of Modern Art in New York City mounted a major retrospective of Close's portraits. Close has been called a Photo-Realist, a Minimalist, and an Abstract Expressionist but, as the 1998 retrospective proved, his commitment to his unique vision and his evolving techniques defy any easy categorization.
Chuck Close: I don’t like my tax money going to support the war in Iraq. I don’t like it buying Humvee’s in the first place, but I really don’t like buying Humvee’s that are not armor protected for our soldiers.
Would I take food out of the mouths of orphans and clothes off the back of people living in assisted care institution to give to artists? No, I wouldn’t. Is it as high a priority as global warming or the fight for the cure for AIDS, or poverty, or anything? No, I wouldn’t argue that it is.
But our government does a lot of things. It spends money on many things that are far more frivolous. In fact, I don’t think art is frivolous at al. But we spend money on things that are truly frivolous while art is seen as a frivolous expenditure.
And if you’re thinking about money as stimulus, you don’t have to look very far to see the positive affect that the arts have on the financial health of our country [USA]. More people go to see art in the museums of New York City than attend all sporting events combined. More money is spent on admission to art museums than all those sporting events put together; notwithstanding the $200 a seat price of going to a Yankee game and $10 to get into MoMA. We bring more tourism into the city than all those sporting events; and more people come here and stay in hotels to see theatre, ballet, opera, and attend art museums than come here for conventions. So, we are valuable to the communities in which we exist directly, financially. Every dollar spent in the arts has about $100 in return, in terms of the way it moves through society, whether it’s hotel rooms, and the people who are making the beds, and the people who are carrying the luggage, and the bartenders in the bars, and the people who run the restaurants. That dollar re-circulates about 100 times.
I would suggest that it’s an investment that our government could justify in terms of how it kick-starts the economy. That it is truly leveraged and that is the stimulant that our economy needs.
Recorded on: February 5, 2009
Chuck Close on supporting the arts even in a recession.
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