“Art is inherently social,” Barry Lord and Gail Dexter Lord say in their new book Artists, Patrons and the Public: Why Culture Changes. They argue that art appreciation is necessarily intertwined with an understanding of the culture in which the art was created, and the culture in which it currently interacts.
The Lords are prominent figures in the museum and cultural planning industry, and they draw on their combined years of experience in discussing art patronage and cultural change. The book is littered with anecdotes that illustrate important points. The first chapter cites the example of the Salford cultural centre. The consultant team, which included the Lords, suggested using the cultural centre as the home for Salford’s major collection of paintings and drawings by local artist L. S. Lowry (1887-1976). The most powerful argument for displaying Lowry’s works, the Lords said, is not so much the works’ aesthetic value, but that Lowry’s works have a unique significance for Salford because “Salford provides the context for why they were created. … Whether Tate shows Lowry or not is not nearly as significant as the public dialogue that the people of Salford and their visitors can have with these works that are so much part of the local culture.” (Artists, Patrons and the Public, page 12) By relating the Lords’ experiences as museum and cultural planning consultants, and by explaining the reasoning behind some of their recommendations, this book provides interesting insight into the world of cultural planning and the forces that shape this world.
“We are all participating constantly in cultural change,” the Lords say, and go on to affirm that statement by inviting an online exchange of ideas on cultural change. With all their experience influencing cultural change around the world, I’d say we can trust them on that.
Hear the Lords speak at the Art Gallery of Mississauga, 300 City Centre Drive, Mississauga, on Wednesday Oct 27, 7 pm. For further reading, you can check out an excerpt of the book on Amazon.