Sean Scully Debates Art in a Crisis

Question: How will art emerge from the economic crisis?

Scully:    Well, you’re asking me that a very interesting moment.  So, we on the economic crisis that has comeback to the level of 1930, so I need… superseded I guess by the levels of 1930s’.  It’s a colossal moment in our time.  Art depends on fact so before you have necessities and the necessities of life which are hospitals and houses and schools you are not going to have art.  Art comes afterwards.  Art enriches society and of course it helps to make it but when there’s a moment like this of austerity I think the art that has some kind of moral backbone or rigor in it is going to become more interesting to people because we are in the time of deep reflection.  We have to think about our own folly and what we did going into Iraq to support Bush and all of his friends, that Halley Burton and now how we going to get out of that although, all the miseries that we cause in the world.  And all the miseries now we are causing to ourselves So, I think that this is going to result in an art that is perhaps less to do with fun and less to do with frivolity.

Question: Should we spend money on art during a recession?

Scully:    Yeah, it’s a very pressing question because you are asking me a question that it’s a blanket question and it’s not particularize so to give up none specific answer to none specific question or question where you have not itemize the examples, I would have to say, yes it has to be included because you can’t kick art out of the cultural carpet, it’s part of it.  But I understand, do you know when people are dying in the streets and they don’t have enough to eat, these proceeds out, there’s no question about it.

Question: Does art benefit from crisis?

Scully:    I would say that if you looked back the history of art, the most interesting art is made in times of great wealth.  So, I would say it’s absolutely not true.  A Renaissance came out of enormous wealth and power and so did the school in Venice.  So, did abstract to expressionism, so did impressionism and on and on so it’s true that some interesting art will be made and I’ve endured a couple of recessions myself and I’ve noticed that in a sober time you make art perhaps less extroverted that relies less unsupported from the culture.  There are less people around to give copious amounts of money to put things into museums.  Less museums are going to be built so on and so on.  Less artists are going to art school, etc.  But if you look at the history of art that’s absolutely not true except if you want to talk about the beginning of a 20th Century and the invention of Dada.

Question: Is art more relevant in a crisis?

Scully:    Well, I would say that depends how much, how preoccupied the person is.  How embattled the person is.  If a person is really seriously embattled, if Somebody lost his job, I don’t know how much mental freedom, emotional freedom, flexibility you have to go strolling around in museums.  You know, I think you might be too anxious.  So the answer to that question is I don’t know but if somebody is feeling very embattled, other things become more important of course.  Now, I once read a comment on Japan, we’re talking about Japan in the 50s’ following the Second World War and also between the wars and this writer, Japanese writer said that, the quality, the great spiritual inner strength of Japan depends on it’s poverty and that’s a very interesting remark.  So, to say the poverty is bad of course it’s a difficult thing to support but copious amounts of money that are just frivolously wasted way that destroy the environment at the same time is also killing us because if we base our life and our future and our possibilities on economic growth, it’s the same saying we based our future on eating the planet which of course is an irreconcilable.  Something will have to give at some point and we as human beings again I have to start to address that as we all now.

The artist says that while art isn't crucial, you can't kick it out of the cultural carpet.

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