We were only going to drive as far as the eastern Hong Kong Travel end of the lake and stop overnight in a village there. But the drive was made Hong Kong Travel slow because my Hong Kong companions kept wanting to stop and take photographs of sheep, an animal they had never seen before, and not content with mere photography they began to chase them across the plain.
But it was harmless fun and they certainly enjoyed themselves. When they grew tired of chasing sheep they sat back in the bus and sang songs in Cantonese and English. Each person in turn was persuaded to sing a song, and not even I was allowed to maintain my inbred barrier of reserve. Their manners toward me were so friendly and polite that I couldn’t refuse.
Business as Usual
Looking back on three decades of culturally-led urban redevelopment, I wonder what else might have been achieved if the arts had not been drawn into the instrumentalism of claims to solving the problems of de-industrialization through urban re-branding. The shift from an arts policy, geared in the post-war welfare state to widening access to cultural experiences towards one of levering investment, began in the Thatcherite 1980s and has shaped cultural institutions on a corporate model. The shift was indicated by a change of terms, from arts administration (for the public good) to arts management (on a business model).
Tate Modern exemplifies the agency of new cultural institutions in changing a city’s image, and has been successful in attracting visitors, including cultural tourists, but also represents the model of a corporate structure operating in, and in some ways dominating, the art-world. Tate relies on the intangible quality of style, and the consumption of a creative class in its blog shops, cafes, restaurant and membership scheme. Esther Leslie, a Professor of political aesthetics in London, writes:
Tate Modern is not just trendy, but the vanguard of a reinvention of cultural spaces worldwide. Art galleries are overhauling themselves as for profit’ spaces where the expertise of art workers is leased out to business and education …
Tate is a brand that niche-markets art experience. Its galleries are showrooms. However, this is still art and not just business. The commodity must not show too glossy a face. The reclamation of an industrial space . lends the building a fashionably squatted aspect, like Berlin water towers or crumbling arcades that serve as edgy art galleries or music venues for a while.