Camel on Culture – 1: When I hear the word ‘culture’…

I now feel ever-more uneasy and skeptical whenever I hear the word ‘culture’ because upon hearing it, I no more think of just art, literature and refinement, or just values, attitudes and behaviors. This old ‘naively romantic’ image has changed drastically over the years.
When I hear the word culture, I still think of all the above, but I also think of budgets, lobbies and dollar signs…
I think of production, marketing and sales forecasts…
I think of ratio analysis, balance sheets and cash flows…
I think of cultural management decisions as investment decisions, with all the opportunity cost and feasibility studies involved…

It’s an old story, but it’s becoming more and more visible and blunt:
Michelangelo’s genius went hand-in-hand with the money of the Medici, Europe’s bankers…
Bernini’s talent went hand-in-hand with the pomp of the Vatican…
And in our present-day, Damien Hirst’s position in the art world goes hand-in-hand with the business mentality of Saatchi and other art dealers…

Behind the scenes, the powers-that-be decide what is art and what is not, what goes on display in a museum or gallery and what would not, but in the end, you and I are at the heart of it all subconsciously and unknowingly, including those of you who will read this message and reflect, and those who will just shrug it off with a sigh of boredom.

One thing we have to accept: culture may or may not be good for you, but there are experts that can convert it into “a” good for you…a good that can be priced, marketed and sold. After all, it seems Barbara Kruger was right when she said: when I hear the word culture, I take out my checkbook!

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