Two weeks ago, the official Olympic and Paralympic 2012 posters were announced. Not what I was expecting from national posters celebrating the games, they were far too abstract and seemed, in my eyes, to rank on the same artistic echelon as an A-level art student – some of them weren’t even to that standard. A select few, notably, Sarah Morris’s Big Ben, and Chris Ofili’s For the Unknown Runner, did stand out as being quite distinct, although I found the £7 each price tag was beyond extortionate.
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But the posters weren’t all that was showcased. What also occurred at the press conference, almost presented as a sideshow, was the unveiling of next year’s London 2012 Festival. A sort of celebration of the Olympics, British culture, and a semicentennial (+1) for the 1951 Festival of Britain. A selection of celebrities and well-known artists have been drafted in to put on performances and national spectaculars to promote British art, film and culture as a means of reigniting the British economy.
…all of which led to new companies, more jobs and more commercial interest from abroad…
Unlike the festival of 1951, however, there will not be a central pavilion to encapsulate the vision of the festival; instead events will happen all around the country, including Martin Creed’s bell ringing (which is linked into the welcoming of the Olympics, but is already failing), a dance festival headed by Arlene Philips, and pop up Shakespeare in central London (a concept that will see Shakespearean actors recite prose and poetry to glum London commuters and tourists who will not know what the hell is going on).
It is a welcome and desirable thing to celebrate and promulgate British culture, as over the past decades both our film industry and creative talents have become global leaders. Yet, to suggest that a national economic recovery will be kick started by such an event, mimicking the success of the 1951 festival is, to be blunt, a joke. What the previous festival celebrated was Britain’s evolving development in sciences, new materials and miniturising industry, all of which led to new companies, more jobs and more commercial interest from abroad (it was what is today relatively common (company to company) through technology fairs and brand exhibits). What next year’s festival will be about is praising large investments in mainly art and film (there is no celebration of Britain influence in IT or the internet) which have, over the past year, subsequently evaporated.
…there seems to be a lack of equilibrium between its status in British society and what it really gives us…
It would do the country a lot more good if all of this investment for next year (over £50 million, which helped pay those very ubiquitous artists handsome sums for their posters) weren’t under the banner of promoting an artistic economic recovery, but was used to help out creative people who can’t find investment and on the technology and manufacturing sectors in this country which have a dire need of help.
I fully support, and so too does this magazine, investment in art and art’s use as a benefit to society both socially and economically, but there seems to be a lack of equilibrium between its status in British society and what it really gives us, especially when its future is based upon the ongoing achievements of very very wealthy artists established after the Labour 1997 victory.
More and more events are being added to the line up, however, so it will be interesting to see if the sciences are able to catch up to the early lead of the arts next year. We have less than a year to go to find out.