Multinational art

In the dash to internationalism the national is trampled underfoot, argues Laura Gascoigne.

In November, Lund Humphries celebrated 75 years of

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publishing books on British art with an anniversary

on the special gift-giving relationship after the boxed set of classic American film DVDs presented by Obama to Gordon Brown in 2009. But while national pride in the art of the past still seems permissible, it has started to look iffy when applied to the present. Patriotism has no place in a global art world. Hence //--> the further questions raised by the Lund Humphries debate: “Is

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there an inherent, identifiable ‘Britishness’ in the art made in these islands today? Or is any notion of a culturally significant Britishness now redundant?”

In his autumn pep talk to participants


in the 56th Venice Biennale, President Paolo


Baratta recalled the reaction against national pavilionism

shop even more cheaply at home if it was prepared to look at national artists without international reputations.

“Real google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; Art history is always part of national history,” wrote the Russian critic Boris Groys a few years ago. “There is a global art market, but there

are no
international institutions.” The Tate
aims to change /* xin2 */ that. Assuming its extension is ever finished – and mothballing
it would take a mountain of camphor – its internationalism may give it short-term novelty appeal. If it succeeds, other national galleries will follow and the world will
be dotted with multinational outlets offering sameness rather than diversity in the name of universality. What will be
lost in translation will be local dialects, the nuances of

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expression peculiar google_ad_height = 90; to art


that is rooted in a shared culture in a particular place.

The test of universality in art is not its ubiquity but its ability to

communicate google_ad_height = 90; on a human level across cultures. Here’s what the cosmopolitan Kitaj had to say on the subject: “I have a hunch that pictures only achieve universal interest by way of the muddle of obsessed attentions (the stuff that excites one in life) to which a very skilled painter exposes his or her picture… That attention might be variously Christian, African, Neurotic, Alien, Decorative, deeply English or any complex sensibility – you name it, but I wouldn’t trust an art too much if
it was damn well determined to be universal like Esperanto, which a lot of art now looks like… because you are what you are and what can be more human than that?”