Wednesday, July 23, 2008


This from CNZ Chairman Alastair Carruthers speaking to The 21st Century Arts Conference in Auckland.

“The key lies not in dumbing down the arts but in demystifying access to them while retaining their sense of wonder. We must drop impenetrable artistic pretension and help new audiences realise that they don’t need classical training or a secret code before they can "get it". (our italics)

In the speech Carruthers uses three examples where ‘artistic pretension’ has been dropped and, consequently, new audiences won over by works of excellence. The first example was from music, with a highbrow Baroque orchestra concert saved by an unusual and memorable presentation. The second an interactive light show on the walls of Te Papa by Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, “I watched people young and old squeal with delight.”

His third example is Doris Salcedo’s installation Shibboleth at the Tate which we posted on last year. After quoting the Guardian and the artist as background, Carruther’s adds his own undercutting, “So that's the idea. (If you can get it.)” This is followed by quoting an anonymous reporter, who declared of the work, “This being The Tate, we also feel obliged, finally, to consider the possibility that it might be art. No one, in short, has the slightest clue." His final quote is from a builder who happened to be working in the Tate at the time of the installation “…I'm not much of a one for modern art. It was a pretty good trench, though. And one hell of a lot of cement. Good luck to 'em." Thanks Alistair.

You can read Excellence and Engagement: speech to the 21st century arts conference on 26 June 2008 by Alastair Carruthers, Arts Council Chair, Creative New Zealand here.