The public don't care about the art scene. So let them shape it as they please

Plus: Let's not take theatre programmes as read; and who is this 'Leonardo DiCaprio' who contributes to problems with the water in Venice?


The press descended upon the Venice Biennale last week. And now it feels like it's well over. Which couldn't be more wrong. It opened to the public this week and runs until the autumn, though if previous years are anything to go by, the crowds tend not to flock to this eclectic show of art, not even the crowds that holiday in Venice.

That's a pity, but I wonder if part of the reason that it is not on the tourist map is that people feel a little distanced from what the often self-regarding art world is doing. I can, though, think of one way to boost its popularity and make people from Britain feel more involved.

The British Pavilion representative at the Biennale, the former Turner Prize-winner Jeremy Deller, was chosen privately by a panel of art worthies organised by the British Council. This private panel spends a long time having meetings and seeing a lot of art, no doubt, and usually comes up with a former Turner Prize-winner.

Next time, why not do something different, something more democratic? Why not open up the selection process to the public and let us all have a say on which artist represents us? True, we may not choose a former Turner Prize-winner, which might upset a lot of former Turner Prize-winners, but it will mean that the art that Britain presents to the world at the world's most important art show truly represents Britain, rather than just a small clique.

A reality TV show to choose Britain's representative at a contemporary art biennale may sound wildly inappropriate, naff even. But it shouldn't. This sort of beauty contest, such as How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria (won by Connie Fisher), has worked well for West End musicals, where it has undoubtedly increased interest in and the public profile of individual shows and performers. It can do the same for contemporary art. More importantly, it would increase, and increase drastically, the public's engagement with contemporary art, and position it as a prime-time art-form, if you like, that was as accessible as a musical or a film or a pop song, much as the Maestro series on TV brought a new audience to classical music.

We shouldn't be afraid of extending the selection process for the Biennale and making the artist the people's choice. The nation's contemporary art is not the sole property of the British Council or of any small group of self-appointed taste-makers. How interesting it might be to learn what a wider public deem to be the brightest stars of today's conceptualism, painting, photography, sculpture and video. Immerse TV viewers in several weeks of programmes to see the best contemporary artists around and have them vote for a winner. They might just go to Venice to see the work. At the very least, prime- time television would embrace contemporary art.

Don't take theatre programmes as read

Thank-you to the many readers who have emailed me agreeing with my frustration over programmes in theatres, which simply give lists of plays next to actors' names rather than any sort of meaningful biography – or even which parts they played in those productions. Many of you share my frustration, it seems. But one reader, John McCormack, goes further, pointing out another annoying factor about theatre programmes. He makes the point that programmes for theatres owned by the same group simply print the same articles in all their programmes. So, even if you've read them already at one show, you will just have to lump it and read them again at the next. Mr McCormack saw The Book of Mormon and Quartermaine's Terms in the West End and found that no fewer than seven articles had been duplicated. Mr McCormack says: "I enjoy reading the programmes on the return train journey back to Sussex after a show, and it is very annoying to find that you have already read every single article!" Expensive too.

DiCaprio and problems with the water in Venice

Back to the Venice Biennale. I did visit last week and had one rather strange encounter. Walking around Venice. I happened upon an excellent exhibition of Russian artists being held on a student campus in the city. In the courtyard I saw the artist Alexander Ponomarev on a ladder mending his delicately balanced water installation, which had apparently come to grief the night before. "It was madness here last night," he told me. "There was a party, everyone was drinking, it was mad, they all went wild, Leonardo DiCaprio was here." I did not understand these non-sequiturs, and can only assume they must be a new form of art-speak.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

i Editor's Letter: Take a moment to imagine you're Ed Miliband...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff

Letters: No vote poses difficult questions – so why rush?

Independent Voices
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits