Whether governments should subsidize the art, this topic still has no unified answer after decades of discussions. The reason why this issue is valued and discussed lies in that it may affect a country's artistic and cultural development strategies, the future and survival of art development, and even the artistic accomplishments and values of entire social citizens (Keynes, 2012). This essay will critically analyse the view that if governments should subsidise the art from four aspects of art’s inheritance, economics, social development and market independence with relevant literatures. Finally, I put forward my own opinion about them.
2.0 Perspectives of supporting governments’ subsidizing the arts 支持政府資助藝術的觀點
2.1 Contributions to the inheritance of art對藝術遺產的貢獻
Zheng (2017) believes that the preservation of art and culture as a legacy for the next generation is a collective benefit. This proposition applies not only to books, architectural relics, but also to the preservation of museum art, as well as to performing arts that require excellence in craftsmanship, taste and traditional maintenance (Naletelich and Paswan, 2018). Taking museums as an example, museums ensure that past and present cultures and arts can continue to be preserved through researches and collections. Through display and education, children can understand their rich cultural heritage and establish their own identity.
Heilbrun and Gray (2001) proposed, if there is no governments’ subsidy, the strong interest of art or culture by individuals or private companies is enough to ensure the preservation of cultural heritage But the problem is that the collection of art by individuals or private companies is often based on personal hobbies and interests, and there are many art and art forms that have high artistic and cultural value but do not meet their interests and hobbies, they can not be protected and passed on by the individuals or private companies. A typical example is the murals of Mo Kao Grotto at Dunhuang, it contains many historical mysteries, there is still a lot of mystery on the murals that fails to be understood by today’s academic circle, which needs funding and protection by governments to better explore the cultural value and pass it on.
2.2 Enhancements of a country's reputation
There are views that great art and artists not only let their people love their country more, but also allow foreign people to look at artists’ motherland more positively (Bogt and Tillema, 2016). This is very important for enhancing the image of the countries and the governments. Therefore, governments’ sponsored arts is understandable and valuable. When people mention Leonardo, they will think of Italy. When they mention Picasso, they will think of Spain, also people will unconsciously project the respect and love of these artists to their homeland.
This argument has also attracted the challenges of sociologists. For example, there are opinions that tell how to evaluate which subsidy policies and strategies are the most effective, whether to subsidize the arts, or sponsor a talented sports team (Labrune et al., 2018). This view has certain rationality, but it should be noted that the evaluation on whether the arts, a sports team or other means can improve a country's reputation more efficiently lacks objective and fair standards as well as evaluation mechanisms (Naletelich and Paswan, 2018), or that such standards and mechanisms do not exist. The examples of Leonardo and Picasso show that arts have the opportunity to effectively promote a country's reputation and get sponsorship. Therefore, the key to the problem is not to sponsor the arts or to sponsor a sports team, but to objectively and fairly evaluate what kind of arts can better improve the national reputation and get funding.
2.3 Bringing economic benefits
Art activities can provide spillover benefits to producers of a local economy. Many economists believe that the existence of cultural institutions such as museums can help to develop local economies or promote urban regeneration (Naletelich and Paswan, 2018) as Art can attract consumers from other places and become a favourite means of entertainment for people who enjoy learning about the past and educating for the future (Naletelich and Paswan, 2018). In addition to buying local shows or museum tickets, they can also consume in local shops, restaurants and hotels. Such development and design of cultural products has become a hot topic in both the museum and the arts galleries, thus promoting local economic development and even increasing employment opportunities. The most well-known cases include the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, the establishment of the museum has created a revitalized urban area and successfully shaped new regional styles and images of the area, becoming an important example of art-driven urban regeneration. Another example is the Natural History Museum in London. It makes use of the "Night at the Museum" movie series to build a vivid night museum, which has won a large number of fans for the museum, and the museum night theme event launched every month makes it one of the most fashionable places for young people in the UK.
2.4 Promotions of harmonious development of a society
Some people consider that arts have social functions in addition to its role in culture, economy, and so on (Keynes, 2012). For example, elegant works of art often express people's noble beliefs and valuable qualities, which can often strengthen people's sense of social responsibility and moral conscience, eliminate people's indifference and closure, and stimulate people's vitality and enterprising spirit (Guinard and Margier, 2018). In short, the development of state-funded art can help to improve the artistic accomplishment of citizens. Just as ancient Chinese art works including paintings, poems, music, etc., these works reflect the artists’ artistic achievements, their personality, political ambition, ideological realm,. Therefore, governments’ sponsors on arts allow today's people to understand and appreciate the arts, so that the audience can relieve the pressure brought by the current high life rhythm to establish a positive attitude in actively treating life and gain more spiritual pursuits.
However, it has also been pointed out that the social function of the arts can actually be completed by education, and it is not necessary to sponsor the arts, because many artworks are not actually appreciated and cared for by the public (Sooudi, 2018). This view is actually not denying that governments should subsidize the arts. Instead, it shows that governments should subsidize the arts to improve the artistic accomplishment of citizens. Because many citizens can not appreciate art because they lack sufficient opportunities to get in touch with art (Naletelich and Paswan, 2018). Government-sponsored arts such as exhibitions and lectures can help more citizens to improve their artistic appreciation and make art bring more social benefits.
3.0 Views against governments’ subsidizing the arts
3.1 Damages to independence of the arts
Many of the arguments against government-funded art are based on the fact that government-funded art is likely to influence the independence of art (Floss, 2018). In order to obtain more funding, artists may have to change their original intentions to create art, and governments are likely to fund some art for their own benefit. For example, the Imperial Cultural Association established during the Hitler period controlled all people related to art. All artists, writers, musicians, art dealers, architects, etc. must join this organization. Later, those who did not conform to the Nazi concept in the art field could not join in the organization. This made the German art world at that time an accomplice of fascism and it was a tragedy in the development of world and German art history.
Unreasonable government funding behavior may damage the independence of the arts, but if governments can follow certain principles, their funding behavior can avoid damage to the independence of the arts. As Keynes and other scholars believe that government-sponsored art should not be objected because of the possible violation to independence of the art. Jue (2017) mentions that governments’ subsidizing the arts without impeding the independence of the arts can be done. Take the “Music and Art Promotion Association” as an example. The association was funded by the British government and it did not damage the independence of the art creation of the association. The art works in the association are diverse and show different talents to satisfy the cultural needs of the public. The reason why the association is succeeded in being subsidizing by the government lies in that the government had always adhered to the principles of supporting artistic creation, safeguarding citizens' rights and opposing bureaucracy in the process of funding art. Therefore, it is not governments’ subsidizing that undermines artistic independence, but the government's failure to comply with the above principles leads to damage to artistic independence.