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Sajid Javid’s first task is to recognise that the price of a cultural asset lies in its value as art

12 April 2014

The suggestion, made by the poet Michael Rosen and others, that Sajid Javid is not sufficiently cultured to be Culture Secretary is as ludicrous as it is pompous. The secretary of state does not write poetry – even bad poetry. He decides how best to make the arts flourish, both as a source of spiritual value and revenue. Therein is a challenge – one that his predecessors have failed to meet.

The nadir of Maria Miller’s lamentable ministerial career was not her recent non-apology or even the episode which saw her advisor appear to threaten a newspaper. No, it was the speech on culture in the age of austerity she gave last summer. There were solecisms and absurdities aplenty (my favourite was ‘visitor economy’ instead of ‘tourism’); but the analytical thrust of her speech was flawed by the mistaken belief that the arts’ spiritual value and monetary value are separate:

‘A proper grasp of the potential economic impact of culture would serve us all well… Culture cannot be seen in isolation at a time of unprecedented economic challenge. Everyone has to play a part in our efforts to reduce the deficit, my Department is no exception. Do we want to be seen to inspire our children or leave them with a mountain of debt?’

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This ‘proper grasp’ of the arts seems to have no place for beauty, brilliance and originality. And what is the point of a culture policy that cannot recognise that the price of a cultural asset lies in the value of its rarefied beauty, brilliance and originality?

In next week’s issue of the magazine, I have reviewed an exhibition by an artist called Susan Aldworth. Her interest is human consciousness. She has worked closely with psychiatrists and doctors to explore how our thoughts and neuroses might be displayed as an image. This is complicated because our scientific understanding of the physical brain is limited. I’m not sure that Aldworth’s work is beautiful; but it is original, provocative and strangely instructive. It sits right at the edge of our own uncertainty; that’s what makes it valuable. Surprise, surprise; there is a market for Aldworth’s work. You can even find her in that temple to commerce: the Saatchi Gallery.

Sajid Javid is intelligent and thoughtful; you have to be to understand money in such depth. I expect that he already grasps what it is that makes culture commercially valuable. A deeper question for Javid is whether the notoriously bureaucratic (and politically correct) system of arts funding makes Britain’s artistic life more or less valuable than it otherwise might be. The answer to that question might then be applied to another part of Leviathan.

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Show comments
  • Frank

    It is not clear from this article that Mr Blackburn understands the art market.

  • jesseventura2

    We can imagine all the people in Islamic countries rushing to theatres to watch modern plays?
    Is he gay as no mention of wife and kids?

    • XCOM5

      What about YOUR wife and kids? Are you gay (like all Internet trolls)? I think we should be told!!1!

      PS: I bet you’re fat.

  • Liz

    Art funding has always been politically correct.

    It’s just what is correct politically has changed.

  • HookesLaw

    The department is named culture media and sport. It is of course utterly crass to suggest that a politician has to be ‘cultured’ to be in charge of such a department. I believe the Times’ arts correspondent made a similar comment about Miller.
    The depart had a significant cut in its budget and I guess the luvvies see whipping up hysteria against its ministers as some kind of payback.

    A far better question to ask is does the BBC spend its massive budget wisely, a budget that far exceeds the ‘culture’ dept. The BBC has a massive influence on the arts in the UK and I would suggest an abject influence on art and culture.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …and you socialist Camerluvvies lovingly support the BBC, as we know.

      • HookesLaw

        How do we know that? I think what we can now work out is what goes on in the mind of a headless chicken.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          We conservatives know that. You socialist Camerluvvies don’t, because you love the socialist BBC, and lovingly support it.

    • Wessex Man

      Hooky, I shocked completely shocked, I always thought you were one of the biggest ‘luvvies’ here!

  • Daedalus

    Hopefully he can see a way to make sure artists and art develop themselves; without recourse to the public purse. Art should be for arts sake, not to keep some PC luvies in employment at the public expense. If art cannot fund itself then surely in that case society has no want for it and hence no need of it.

    Maybe Damien Hirst and Tracy Emin could start up some sort of arts philanthropy with the money they have earned from it.


    • Baron

      What an enlightened idea, Daedalus, it was such in the barbaric Britain, not in the ‘enlightened one’.

    • Hexhamgeezer

      .or Benjamin Zephaniah starts paying his own air fares…

  • Baron

    And another thing, perhaps the new man in charge of manufacturing culture and art will get himself a copy of one of Baron’s guru, Edmund Burke’s “The Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime & Beautiful” where the great man argues quite convincingly that we perceive beauty and ugliness, refinement and pollution subjectively, not objectively. Having read the book, he cannot but resign, abolish the outfit he was appointed to.

    • telemachus

      It might well be predicted that you will have as your hero one who my own hero wrote:

      “The sycophant—who in the pay of the English oligarchy played the romantic laudator temporis acti against the French Revolution just as, in the pay of the North American colonies at the beginning of the American troubles, he had played the liberal against the English oligarchy—was an out-and-out vulgar bourgeois. “The laws of commerce are the laws of Nature, and therefore the laws of God.” (E. Burke, l.c., pp. 31, 32) No wonder that, true to the laws of God and Nature, he always sold himself in the best market.”

      • Colonel Mustard


        “What a pantload of bull crap! Marx’s critique of capitalism was not right after all. No! the capitalist system will not collapse as a result of its internal contradictions. No! we were not too quick to dismiss Karl Marx and his economic theories. We may have been too quick to not hold when the USSR collapsed the same kind of tribunals held after Hitler and the Third Reich were defeated.”

        (which should have included the fifth column in the UK)

        “By repeating lies against liberty long enough, socialists have made it appear that the system of natural liberty encourages corruption and things like the sub-prime crisis. But what are the actual facts? Capitalism begins by looking at human nature. Hobbes and Locke, pointed out that since human nature is far from perfect, some people will always try to cheat, mislead, and misuse their powers. So if anyone cheats, then systems of justice should catch and punish the cheats. Thus everyone must be held equally to account and no one is to be above the law. In this manner, by ensuring all crimes are punished, capitalist societies are today among the most ethical on this planet.”

        “The political foundation of Marx’s utopia always had a critical structural flaw. He never explained how the members of the transitional dictatorship would be chosen, and why they would voluntarily relinquish their authoritarian power (q.v. the EU).”

        And of course socialist regimes have plenty of cheats too, as the years 1997 to 2010 demonstrated.

        • telemachus

          And on

          “In socialist societies, based as the spurious concept of economic equality, state-sanctioned corruption is the norm.”




          Socialism enables freedom and notes that capitalism creates inequality and limits human potential. Capitalism derives wealth from a system of labor exploitation and then concentrates wealth and power within a small segment of society that controls the state

          Socialism includes a diverse array of reasonableness, ranging from reformism to revolutionary socialism, from a planned economy to market socialism

          Our primary goal must be social equality and a distribution of wealth based on one’s contribution but with an eye to the weak

          • Baron

            ‘Socialism enables freedom?’

            Sweet baby Jesus, you must be ill, telemachus, truly ill, it’s not a kick comment, you do need to see a shrink before your predicament gets worse, you harm yourself.

            We are free because we are born free, not equal, Freedom and equality are strange bedfellows for freedom allows for choices, a choice discriminates, it’s the nature of it.

            And what, pray, is marker socialism, ha? The key postulate of the socialist economic doctrine is the preference of an elite running things. Wherever it was tried, even in small doses, it has been a disaster. Where do we have chronic, problems? In three segments – health, law and order and education. What’s the common denominator in all three? An elite runs them.

            • telemachus

              Before the great socialist vision of Kier Hardie and Beveridge workers were shackled to employers and depended on philanthropy for welfare
              Their socialist vision set the workers free

              • HookesLaw

                Beveridge was not a socialist.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Huh? What a bizarre statement.

                  You truly are a socialist nutter, lad.

            • Wessex Man

              He is but show a little kindness to him it’s terminal.

          • Colonel Mustard

            Socialism is a failed doctrine everywhere it has been tried and whose main consequence is human misery. That it is now being espoused from within the Labour party by failed Marxists/communists is something all of us should take warning from.

            You are a communist. Be honest with yourself and the British people. Join the Communist Party and stop using the Labour Party as a Trojan Horse. That goes for the other commies in your party too.

            • telemachus

              The broad left does not now, unlike 50 years ago, worry about labels
              The key is to win power in the name of the people
              There is no point in the intellectual pursuit of egalitarian caring ideals which we must of course espouse
              The key is to harness your allies and fellow travellers and go for the gold
              Why on earth do you think the revisionist Blair was tolerated

              • Colonel Mustard

                “The key is to win power in the name of the people”

                Says it all. Hope all the useful idiots that vote for you read those words and understand what you are really about.

                • telemachus

                  And to use that power going forwards in the name of the people
                  It will not have escaped you people that Cameron stands for us and ours
                  We will stand not only for those doing OK now but also for the poor and disadvantaged of Nechells, Tower Hamlets, Stretford and Moss Side
                  We need to care about the underbelly and hang the comfortable home counties folk sitting in Warm comfort stroking their retrievers

                • Colonel Mustard

                  Well you’ve managed to fuck it up for everyone every time you’ve been in power so far. Let’s hope you get it right next time, but looking at your shadowy cabinet of Broon has-beens “led” by Son of Communist I’m not going to hold my breath.

      • Baron

        Just stick to the matter at hand, just for once, telemachus.

  • Baron

    David, will you please remind the poorly educated Slav who was the Culture Secretary when Turner, Constable, Gainsborough …… were around?

    • telemachus

      I think you will find that Diana Princess of Wales Great Great…. Great Granfather George John Spencer, the second Earl when Home Secretary was a great patron of the arts
      Not of course as accomplished as Maria

      • Baron

        And the money spent on the patronage by the Earl was whose, telemachus?

        • telemachus

          Taxes on the burgeoning banks of Nathan Mayer von Rothschild and friends

          • Baron

            You cannot get away with it, the man was never in charge of any department of State that would have allowed him to spend taxpayers’ money on arts of any sort. If you know otherwise give Baron a link he can scan, please.

            • HookesLaw

              Well you have got me going there. I read he was a keen bibliophile. Better not tell the CPS.

              • Wessex Man

                hur hur hur


  • dado_trunking

    Very good header and of course absolutely right.
    Hirst in decline, team Saatchi out, what next?

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …you and the goat start-up with performance art?

    • Wessex Man

      Sanity hopefully but he is a Toryboy.

  • In2minds

    We will soon be bored by this man?

  • Alex

    Suggested plan …
    Week 1
    1. Shut down DCMS.
    2. Use the savings to cut taxes.
    3. Some of the extra money that people/businesses get to keep they will spend on the arts. Some they won’t. But hey, it’s their money; their choice.

    Er, that’s it. Job done.

    • Wessex Man

      Alex you desrve a knighthood!

  • Raw England

    I think we all know why Sajid Javid fails at being the minister of BRITISH CULTURE.

    • kyalami

      Enlighten us.

      • disqus_KdiRmsUO4U

        Well racial identity is a cultural asset.

        It doesn’t appear to be thought to be of any great importance by many in the UK.
        Whitey is 10% of the world’s population.
        Lets do our best to reduce that despite what those nasty racists say.

        I want a Jamaican steel band at the last night of the proms…what say you ?

        • dado_trunking

          I tell you this – the Nigel Kennedy farce it getting on my boobies. Find someone who can actually perform and when you cannot find anyone, then perhaps a steel band would do nicely.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            …well, you and the pig could be put on the bill, what?

          • Wessex Man

            nothing wrong with that at all, after all when Scotland’s got it’s Independence there will be a big gap to fill!

    • itdoesntaddup

      That is presumably because he considers that immigrants should adopt British culture, as he himself has done?

      I expect him to argue for measures to see that put into effect.

    • HookesLaw

      You nasty ignorant bigoted sick barsteward. Its rah rah rah time for UKIP is it? What a vicious nasty bunch you are. Go stick to polishing your tattoos.

      • Wessex Man

        Now I know you have totally lost it in your blind hatred of UKip ‘Raw England’ is a Tory!

    • Wessex Man

      Go go in the name of God go!

  • Tony_E

    His first job should be to look very hard at arts funding and remove any that serves no longer term cultural purpose or that costs more to administer than its real value.

    Most art is not state funded. Thousands of artists all over Britain create art every day without either funding or encouragement from the state.

    His department might find more productivity in aiding the publicising the art that is created off the government books.

  • Smithersjones2013

    Javid should have only one task. Shut the DCMS down and as a bean counter he is perfectly qualified to do so!

    • ButcombeMan

      Are we absolutely sure that Cameron has not put him in to come up with a plan to break the BBC and engineer a huge slash in the broadcast receiving tax. He seems ideally suited. That should be his main task.

      It would be hugely electorally popular to have a promise and outline plan in place for the next election. Crosby will know that.

      BBC excesses are no longer electorally acceptable and rival the unpopularity of MPs fiddling their expenses.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        A very keen point. Dave could do worse than using the BBC to rally conservatives, who have abandoned him in droves.

        It would have to be a real plan, well articulated, well thought out, believable, passionately presented, not just in a “speech” but actively demonstrated in temperament and tendency, with a long ranging vision for the landscape after the cull takes place.

        Which means that it will never happen, because the clueless Camerluvvies are incapable of all of that. Plus, they love the BBC, as a glutton loves his lunch .

        • ButcombeMan

          I think they love being re-elected more.

          A plan to sell off most of the Beeb, keeping only a core public service and world service element and reduce the broadcast receiving tax to no more than 50 pounds, would be electorally very attractive.

          Something dramatic needs to be done with the BBC. The Charter is up for renewal in 2016. There are points for a political party that starts getting to grips with it now.

          It would also concentrate a few minds at the Beeb

          • Baron

            Sadly, no politician will ever take on the agitprop monstrosity head on because it, the monstrosity, would destroy him before he had time to slaughter it. Weird as it may sound, the BBC yields more power than the elected lot, there isn’t anyone who could hold it accountable, or anything that could clip its wings.
            It is so blatantly arrogant it’s proposing that everyone, even those without a TV set, pay the tax. Arghhh

          • the viceroy’s gin

            I don’t think the Camerluvvies will ever turn on the BBC. It’s their meal ticket, in both Westminster and in Brussels. All the bubble folk profit from the gentle touch of the BBC, and seek it out, today and for tomorrow as well. But that’s all gone, if they turn on their meal ticket.

            To do it right, the Cameroons would have to burn their boats, and go for it. But as there’s not an ounce of principle in that gaggle of metrosexual poshboys, I just don’t see it. And I don’t think they’d even know how to strike a match, and would have to have a Bengali house servant do it for them.

            More likely, they’ll issue a press release about some waffle or another concerning BBC operations and waffle waffle this and that, and meanwhile whisper to their BBC bubble mates that all is well and their essential sinecures are safe, should the Camerluvvies get back in. The people will spot that out instantly as more Camerluvvie waffle and marketeering spin, and it would boomerang and whallop them upside their empty skulls, same as all their other marketeering efforts.

            It could work, with another group, but the required commitment just isn’t available from these slackjawed lumps.

            • ButcombeMan

              I believe it is finally being thought about. And see Maitland article in todays Telegraph.

    • Baron

      Seconded, twice.

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