PRINT March 2001


Art for All?

AT THE DAWN of the postwar Labour government, its policy architect, Aneurin Bevan, depicted Britain as “an island of coal surrounded by a sea of fish.” It was a memorable image of the nation's natural assets, and it captured his own party's midcentury appetite for nationalizing them. Fifty years later, film honcho David Puttnam offered an update: Britain had become “an island of creativity surrounded by a sea of understanding.” Not a winning phrase, for sure, but Puttnam's characterization was an equally faithful reflection of the temper of the New Labour government he would shortly join as an adviser on science and culture. From the outset, Tony Blair's Cool Britannia would be a massive PR campaign to persuade the world that the country Napoleon once mocked as a nation of shopkeepers was now a nation of artists and designers, with the future in their enterprising bones.

By the '90s, with

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