Monday, 28 January 2013

Do they mean me?

Picture: Amazon
Observer editorial on the Manet show: "The advent of a blockbuster exhibition offers as much diversion for people who like being grumpy as it does for the art lover. So the delivery of a crateful of more than 50 of Édouard Manet's portraits at the Royal Academy of Arts in London this weekend has naturally been trailed with complaints about high ticket prices, populism and potential overcrowding".  It concludes, "When the circus comes to town, it is sometimes worth queuing up with your fellows, rather than simply grumbling about all the noise."
I find the stigmatisation of dissent as 'grumpiness' objectionable.  It's  symptomatic of the sycophantic strain in arts journalism that they depict debate as a clash between fun-lovers and miserablists.  It would be unthinkable to reduce a debate on any other social or political issue to that level - can you imagine ridiculing critics of education or health policy as merely 'grumpy'?  This editorial reveals low expectations of culture when it expects us to jump for joy at an exhibition simply because it juxtaposes some nice paintings in front of a big crowd. 

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