THE JACKDAW was founded in 2000. It is the UK’s leading independent fine arts newsletter, published 6 times per year. It publishes news, investigative journalism, opinion pieces, reviews of books and exhibitions, satire, exhibition listings, obituaries, letters and artist statements (with illustrations), covering fine art, architecture, public art and museum policy. For over 20 years THE JACKDAW has been a vital outlet for critics, journalists and artists to expose corruption, mismanagement and insider dealing in the art world, especially in the UK public arts scene. I write exclusive content in multiple pieces for every issue.
THE JACKDAW has been withdrawn from sale from every museum shop in the UK because of its trenchant criticism (most of it from working artists) of the arts establishment. It urgently needs new subscribers to continue. Visit here to read some content and subscribe to the print edition of THE JACKDAW here: http://www.thejackdaw.co.uk/ It is available to subscribers worldwide and covers American, Australian and European events in addition to its focus on the UK.
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EDIT: Link updated. Please have patience with the website. The Jackdaw is set up for print subscriptions not the website. I have found The Jackdaw to be very reliable and helpful regarding subscriptions.
“Look at the groups removing “politically objectionable” statues. Look at university-student mobs which shout down or assault public speakers. Look at student bodies which demand “safe spaces” and ban discussion as “hate speech”. This is Identarianism [identity politics] in its purest form, where it expresses the mentality and emotional tenor of even those who consider themselves moderates. Most activists do not fully understand the origins, tenets and implications of their ideology. No matter. Consider the Cultural Revolution, when commissars harnessed the anger of young idealists to instigate an orgy of righteous cultural destruction. Identarianism is not simply another way of viewing society, which can co-exist with other outlooks; it is an entity which has evolved to suppress opposition and destroy cultural expression.”
Published in The Jackdaw, 2017, reprinted in Alexander Adams Culture War: Art, Identity Politics and Cultural Entryism (Imprint Academic, 2019)
In issue 150 of The Jackdaw, the British independent newsletter on the arts, you can find four articles by me: “Defund the ICA” – arguing for the removal of public funding of the ICA, London; a review of the recent Boston Museum of Fine Art catalogue of Hyman Bloom; a round-up review of catalogues on Helen Frankenthaler; the current exhibition at Ashmolean Museum, Oxford of the art of Philip Guston, including a review of the new catalogue on Guston’s art from Hauser & Wirth.
To read this exclusive content, purchase a printed copy by subscribing to The Jackdaw at www.thejackdaw.co.uk
In the January issue of The Jackdaw you can find my reviews of the Gipsformerei (Near Life), John Nash, Leonardo’s Bella Principessa, Jan de Beer and a letter regarding women in art. All this content is exclusive to the print edition of The Jackdaw. Other articles/reviews in this issue are on Lucian Freud, The Turner Prize, Modernist architecture, Anselm Kiefer and more.
Much of my critical writing, discursive pieces and journalism is produced for the British newsletter The Jackdaw. The Jackdaw is published 6 times per year and contains reviews, news, profiles, journalism, polemic, letters and satirical humour, all centred on fine art mainly in Great Britain but also international. Many of its subjects (small exhibitions, obscure artists, controversial views, neglected news) are not covered elsewhere in print media, making The Jackdaw a valuable journal of record. Visit the website www.thejackdaw.co.uk to view typical content.
The Jackdaw needs new subscriptions to survive. The printed version contains much more content than the website. If you enjoy my writing, you can find more of it published exclusively in The Jackdaw. These pieces are not available on my website and not all of it is on the Jackdaw website. By subscribing to The Jackdaw, you would be supporting my writing and independent arts journalism produced by many other authors. Subscription information is listed on the website front page.
I do not have a financial interest in The Jackdaw, for which I submit texts as a freelance writer.
“Imagine the most absurd and outrageous provocations about art that you can. For example: there is no such thing as a pure work of art; artists are unusually ill-informed; there is no market reward for good art; government subsidies make artists poor. Both defensive supporters of state funding and critical traditionalists will be muttering that art should not be viewed as an economic product or an investment. Both sides believe that art and money should be separated; the influence of money in the art market is deleterious to the production/appreciation of art. Yet how many of these assumptions are accurate and where is the economic evidence to back up these views?
Artist and social economist, Professor Hans Abbing has looked at the fine arts (encompassing dance, classical – not pop – music, opera and theatre but primarily concentrating on the visual fine arts) and sees an economy that does not function like any other. In Why Are Artists Poor? Abbing seeks to understand how this singular market operates, drawing on academic research and statistics and demonstrating through anecdotal examples. Some of Abbing’s findings make profoundly uncomfortable reading for people who accept many common assumptions about the arts. Here are Abbing’s main findings…”
This year a sculpture by Sam Durant entitled Scaffold was erected in a sculpture park managed by Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. The wooden sculpture juxtaposed elements of playground-activity structures and gallows. One minor aspect of Scaffold referred to the hanging of Dakota Native Americans in 1862 as part of struggles between the Dakota Nation and the American government. That reference had been missed until it was pointed out, at which time a campaign to remove the sculpture was begun by the Dakota. “This is a murder machine that killed our people because we were hungry,” said a member of the Dakota Nation, equating Scaffold with an actual gallows that hanged members of the Dakota. In May the museum destroyed Scaffold and the artist renounced his work.
This year there was a protest by some black artists against the display at the Whitney Biennial of a painting of murdered black activist Emmett Till. Black activists lobbied to have the painting by Dana Schutz, a white artist, removed as offensive and hurtful. “The subject matter is not Schutz’s,” said one protestor, claiming ownership and authority over the representation of a historical event.
In these two cases, activists claimed ownership over aspects of history in order to suppress art works. In one case it resulted in the destruction of art. Pressure groups have noticed the weakness of curators, administrators and politicians and their unwillingness to protect art from censorship. Sympathetic towards notions of social justice, administrators sometimes submit to emotional blackmail by groups which demand censorship…”
“The canon of great art has never been the target of greater ire than it is today, but many leftist critics and their traditionalist opponents misunderstand the canon. The truth is unsettling for both groups. This essay seeks to clarify the nature of the canon at a time when it is an especially contentious subject.
Great Deeds Against the Dead
Last year art-history A-level was scrapped due to low take-up, then, after a campaign to reverse the decision, it was reinstated. This allowed New Criticism a foothold in school art-history teaching. When the new curriculum was developed, there was a downgrading of the master artists of Europe. Sarah Phillips, designer of new art-history syllabus, said “It is a global specification. Students won’t just study the work of dead white men. They will have the opportunity to study Islamic architecture and work by men and women of all colours and creeds.” Perhaps students will be tested on artist skin colour in exams.
“Art history is the study of power, politics, identity and humanity; it makes perfect sense to keep the exam,” said Jeremy Deller. One doesn’t envy students wanting to learn about painting only to be dragooned into political-education courses and harangued on the purported crimes of their forefathers, who were more likely to have been agricultural labourers toiling in fields than redcoats bayonetting babies in India. Perhaps A-level art history would have better remained decently defunct…”
“With the opening of a new building adjoining the Tate Modern Bankside site, and the appointment of a new director, Dr Maria Balshaw, things seem buoyant at the Tate. Yet below the surface the organisation is headed towards crisis.
“Although you wouldn’t know it from the fawning accolades of newspaper profilers, Balshaw’s appointment alarms art historians. Balshaw, the new director of Britain’s largest fine-art museum, with four venues and £1.3 billion in assets, is not an art historian but a student of literature who attained a doctorate in critical theory, specialising in American authors. Critical theory is an academic branch of postmodernism that, preferring to concentrate on art’s ideological and social role, sees no qualitative difference between high and low (or popular) art forms. This might be a problematic grounding for the director of Britain’s largest collection of high art. Hitherto in her roles as head of the Whitworth and Manchester art galleries, she has demonstrated no detailed understanding of fine art or any willingness to defy fashion, exhibiting and collecting art on an agenda underpinned by identity politics and feminism.
“Indeed, Balshaw is a proactive and politically driven individual who will not be taking a backseat position. She has previously made statements that women and minority artists should be given a more prominent position in the arts world. As explained previously on spiked, the relatively low number of female artists in the Tate collection is due to historical restrictions on women artists that no longer exist. However, for feminists, that statistical imbalance justifies the promotion of women artists regardless of the quality of their art.
“If the Tate was a stable or manageable organisation, then a figurehead leader would be a viable proposition. Unfortunately, the Tate has huge and ever-increasing problems…”
“Bruised by negative reactions to his solo exhibition at Betty Parsons Gallery in winter 1950, Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) was intent on proving himself in 1951. When the weather warmed enough to start painting in his studio-shed he embarked on a series of large paintings – diluted black enamel on raw cotton duck. From May to September 1951 Pollock produced 28 paintings, which came to be called the Black Paintings. Some of these Black Paintings and associated work is now gathered on display in Liverpool (Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots, Tate Liverpool, closes 18 October).
“Pollock felt that to counter criticisms that his work was becoming decorative and insubstantial, he should use figurative elements and a single colour. The grand subjects of conflict, war, death and the nude must also have seemed suitably powerful as a riposte to the accusation of insubstantiality. Pollock was deeply attached to imagery of atavistic intensity. His admiration for Albert Pinkham Ryder and his studies of history painting under Thomas Hart Benton suggested an American artist could draw from a kitty of essential themes. His experience of drawing dreams as part of Jungian analysis showed that the deep wellspring of unconscious symbols was something he could use.
“All the time Pollock painted the Black Paintings, he had to struggle with the problem of representation as seen through the prism of critical debates of the era. How could an abstract artist prove he had skill and seriousness without resorting to conventional figuration?…”
Read the full article on Jackson Pollock, a review of the Prud’hon exhibition in London and a review of a new book on Max Beckmann only in the print version of THE JACKDAW no.123, Sept/Oct 2015, single issues and subscriptions available here: http://www.thejackdaw.co.uk/