Opinion | Museums, Guns and Money


This essay is part of The Big Ideas, a special section of The Times’s philosophy series, The Stone, in which more than a dozen artists, writers and thinkers answer the question, “Why does art matter?” The entire series can be found here.

Museums have clearly become a new site of protest. Such protests often provoke a passionate response from both the public and the art world. Perhaps this is because they cut to the heart of art’s social value: What, and whom, are museums for? Another question these protests raise is why art matters so much — not to the public, or even to museums, but to sponsors and donors.

This year marks the fourth anniversary of a turning point for museum protests and sponsorship. In 2016, the Tate museum network became the first major cultural institution in Britain to drop fossil fuel funding, following six years of pressure from activist groups primarily led by the art collective Liberate Tate, of which I was a member. Liberate Tate conducted 16 uninvited performances in Tate spaces, including spilling molasses inside Tate Britain in 2010 during an event celebrating BP’s sponsorship of the institution and bringing a 121-pound chunk of ice harvested from the Arctic to melt inside Tate Modern in 2012.

By Gavin Grindon

2020-05-26 05:00:13

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