Google, the demise of the Arts Council and the trouble with visual artists

Interesting day at the CVAN / Google Knowledge-Sharing event yesterday. On one level, it sometimes feels as if the contemporary visual arts sector is having the same conversations we were having with ourselves when I first started out at South West Arts in the late 1990s:  There are particular challenges faced by a visual art sector comprised, ultimately, of individuals rather than large organisations. Whether one is a supporter of the Arts Council or not, the demise of a strategic leadership layer following cut after cut has impacted upon visual artists more than any other creative practitioner. Isolated and under-capitalised, our conversation risks going backwards. And yet there is an inherent liberating resilience in surviving as an individual.

And so power shifts, from the publicly-funded monolith to the global corporation. Yesterday’s presentations from Google were energizing, not for their technical wizardry or their mastery of the internet, but for what we learned about Google as a company and a phenomenon. Clearly the company has the pick of some of the most diverse talent from Europe and around the world. Moreover, it has the courage to recruit those individuals, to nurture them and to give reign to their individual creativity.

We need Google to pay its tax and we can learn from it too.

Much of the day’s discussion focused on The Google Cultural Institute and The Google Art Project – initiatives that have done much to democratize the experience of historical and modern art. The challenge now is to develop the technical, linguistic and above all financial models to enable new media and the ephemeral, intellectual and experiential artistic practice of today to be shared richly and globally.