All talk and no action for arts funding?

So far, the public's response to the Arts Council's national debate has been incisive and encouraging - let's hope they listen.

Art is both the least and most democratic of human institutions. The most democratic because, as Plato observed before throwing the poets out of his ideal republic, the absence of any fully determinate principles either for making or evaluating works of art means that the power of judgment lies, ultimately, with the populace and its fickle, weak-headed ways. But this populist underpinning aside, the central tenets of democracy, such as transparency, accountability and blind majority, could not be more remote from the single-minded and autocratic way most artworks are conceived, created and - until now at last - funded.

For understandable reasons, then, art's relationship with government has always been uneven - how, after all, do you account for taste? An impossible question, perhaps, but one that nonetheless defines the institution of the Arts Council, founded 60 years ago as part of the wave of widespread cultural regeneration that followed the second world war. The organisation has borne sharp criticism from, alternately, the government, the art establishment, and the punter, having emerged from the open warfare of the 1980s to today's uneasy, lottery-funded peace, appeasing the government with heavily red-taped public accountability measures and the artists with bundles of the old green stuff...

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