Big names from British art have been at the inaugural Art Party Conference, an alternative political party conference that saw delegates chew
over the state of culture in the UK and throw missiles at a likeness of Education Secretary Michael Gove, as reported by the BBC:
“Where are we going?” called the artist Bob and Roberta Smith. “Scarborough!” came the enthusiastic reply from a couple of hundred artists, students and art teachers. They were in Scarborough already, in fact, marching along on the beach with colourful placards. “What are we going to do when we get there?” called Smith, who is one man but uses both names Bob and Roberta.
“Breakfast!” shouted a voice. “Party!” replied another. The mob had not got the hang of the response Smith has been training them to shout: “To better advocate the arts to government!” They were on their way to the first Art Party Conference, an artists’ alternative to the annual political party conferences that always used to be held in such seaside resorts. An adapted coconut shy has busts of Michael Gove instead of coconuts Organised by artists, the event had an appropriate air of anarchy and oddness, but with serious intent and indignation at its heart. It was, the venerable sculptor Richard Wentworth remarked, like “a cross between a Navajo gathering and an Irish horse fair”. In the main hall, a Salvador Dali impersonator acted as the compere as figures from the arts world mounted a kind of pulpit to deliver short sermons on the state of the arts.
“At the edge of the room, someone was inviting visitors to play the classic party game of pin the tiara on the artwork, with the Mona Lisa and The Scream the two possible targets.
Down the corridor, there had been erected a Goveshy, a coconut shy in which people threw balls not at coconuts but at small clay busts of Michael Gove.
Inviting people to throw things at the head of a cabinet minister is perhaps not the most diplomatic way of advocating anything to the government. As the day went on, Mr Gove was the main target for vitriol as well as missiles.
And like any normal party conference, the tone was highly partisan.
Critics have accused Mr Gove’s new national primary curriculum and GCSE exam changes of creating a “two-tier” system that sidelines arts subjects.
In response, the government has said primary pupils must focus on the “vital” subjects of English, maths and science, but that schools will have “more freedom” to teach other subjects.