One thing the referendum has done is to throw into extremely sharp relief the cultural divide between the metropolis and most of the regions. London has increasingly tended to see itself as a ‘world city’ – a cultural meeting point. The regions want none of this cosmopolitanism. It’s back to Little Britain. Various British organisations that pride themselves on reaching out, taking culture as they define it from the centre-that-knows-best to benighted outlying territories are perhaps due for a rethink.
A striking factor in the political upheaval that has just taken place was the ineffectiveness of the Labour Party, which seemed unwilling to play any active part in the debate. The arts in Britain, the visual arts perhaps most of all, have tended in recent years to be smugly left. In fact, leftist declarations now regularly serve as substitute for anything resembling the old early 20th century avant-gardism – which I would define here as an effort to see the world genuinely anew. The referendum highlights the fact that much of the supposedly avant-garde art produced in Britain today lives in a bubble. It has little or no effect on British society, despite the best efforts of official metropolitan patronage.
Meanwhile, the crash in the value of the pound that has just taken place is unlikely to help the international art fairs just ready to open their doors in London. Masterpiece London opens on June 30th. The Art and Antiques Fair at Olympia opens two days earlier – June 28th. Any foreign dealers taking part will have to raise their prices. In fact, the British art world in general can expect some hard times in the immediate future. On the upshot, Foreign buyers who come to London may, by contrast, have a birthday. For them, art priced in sterling will suddenly seem a lot cheaper.
Words: Edward Lucie-Smith Photo: P C Robinson © Artlyst 2016