21 December 2016

Islands of the Colorblind

Presently scrounging through texts, attempting to sort through Romanticism's various pushbacks against the tides of Enlightenment, Utilitarian, and Positivist thought in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and encountered the following. Not unlike Jane Jacobs, but 120 years before the fact...

"It is not disputed, that in any land where there are flourishing cities, the territorial aristocracy will be distinguished as patrons of the beautiful in art. But whence has this aristocracy derived the wealth by means of which it indulges so largely in the gratification of those tastes ? Whence has it derived these tastes themselves? And whence came the men of genius possessing the power to minister to those tastes ? On these questions, it is not too much to say, that as the town has made the country, giving to its lands a beauty and value they would not otherwise have possessed ; so the citizen has made the noble, by cultivating in him a taste for art, which would not otherwise have formed a part of his character. For it must be obvious that the countrv which should be purely agricultural, producing no more than may be consumed by its own agricultural population, must unavoidably be the home of a scattered, a rude, and a necessitous people, and its chiefs be little elevated above the coarse untaught mass of their dependants. Burgesses produce both the useful and the ornamental, and minister in this manner both to the need and the pleasure of nobles and kings. What they sell not at home they send abroad. In either case, wealth is realized; lands become more valuable; public burdens can be borne; and along with the skill which produces embellishment, come the means by which it may be purchased. [...]

"We only maintain that the successful patronage of the fine art depends less on the existence of noble families, than on the existence of prosperous cities. Without the former kind of patronage, art may be wanting in some of its higher attributes; without the latter, it would cease to have existence."
- Robert Vaughan, "On Great Cities in their Connexion 
with Art," from The Age of Great Cities (1843).

Or, as a friend of mine said of San Francisco a few years ago, "[It's] been officially pronounced dead. It's a good city to consume culture, but in a very short time it has become one that is completely inhospitable to those who produce it."

*image: Attributed to Tom Sachs. First spotted by the author in 
an alleyway of the Soho district of Manhattan, circa 1997.

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