Why is there only one Monopolies Commission? : British art and its critics in the late 1970s
This thesis examines the British art world in the period 1976-1981. The first section explores the crises in the artworld triggered by the International Monetary Fund Crisis of February 1976. Central to this analysis is the Labour and Conservative Party's ideological shift from culturalist paternalism to monetarist liberalism, the history and function of the Arts Council of Great Britain, the press scandals surrounding the Tate Gallery's purchase of Carl Andre's Equivalent VIII and the ICA's exhibition of COUM Transmission's Prostitution. The opportunist populist polemics of the 'crisis critics' (Richard Cork, Andrew Brighton, Peter Fuller and John Tagg) are then introduced alongside a discussion of the colossal changes in the British art press. This is followed by an analysis of Cork's defence of Conrad Atkison's work and of the Royal Oak murals. The second section looks at the postmodernism rejected by Cork and the populist crisis critics, namely, the scripto-visual work of John Hilliard, Victor Burgin, and John Stezaker. The influence of photoconceptualism on community artists and feminist artists is then examined. This is followed by an analysis of Art & Language's critique of 'Semio-Art'. This section concludes with an analysis of the 'new art history' in relation to the practices of Jo Spence and Terry Atkinson. The following section looks at 'conservative'/populist postmodernism as outlined in exhibitions such as The Human Clay (1976), Towards Another Picture (1978), Lives (1979) and Narrative Painting (1979). This includes extensive discussion of the work of David Shepherd, Peter Blake, Ron Kitaj, David Hockney, Steven Campbell, Women's Painting (Images of Men), and The School of London (The Hard Won Image). The final section opens with a lengthy examination of the agitational performances of COUM Transmissions, investigating their decision to abandon the publicly subsidised artworld in order to become the industrial band Throbbing Gristle. This is followed by an examination of British pro-Situationism, punk and new wave subcultures in the 1970s, relating them to the growth of the entrepreneurial art market of the early 1980s.