Monday, February 13, 2006

Government patronage ...

... of the arts seems a dubious undertaking -- even in Britain: Social work.

Collecting art is itself a kind of art and requires talent as well as money. If you visit the Phillips Collection in Washington, the part put together by Duncan Phillips himself is uniquely impressive. Get to the new wing, where the curators' choices are on display, and the drop-off in quality is palpable. Scholars, as Yeats observed, are likely to "think what other people think" and "know the man their neighbor knows." This doesn't make for what it takes to put together a first-rate art collection.
I suspect the same is true when it comes to literature and music. In fact, I'm sure it is.

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