Boycott City of London Artwashing

The City of London is a major funder of the arts in south-east England. It splashes money in this area because it wants to displace cultures that are antagonistic towards private capital and big business and replace them with a bland monoculture that poses no threat to its interests. Charity and arts funding simultaneously provide the City with a fig leaf of respectability. What the City is really about is sucking up wealth and resources from the mass of people so that these can be hoarded by a tiny rich elite. This is why the City spends huge amounts of money on otherwise unneeded functionaries such as the Lord Mayor (so that London has two mayors when it only needs one), who is sent around the world to propagandise for what the City euphemistically calls economic ‘liberalisation’, which is its codeword for a race to the bottom in terms of workers rights and fair taxation (i.e. where those with more money pay more tax). And while the City also funds some state academies in a failed attempt to make itself look virtuous, it spends a lot more subsidising private schools.

Two projects the City of London is backing right now are the London Borough of Culture and the Culture Mile. The former is a competition along ‘City of Culture’ lines where boroughs bid for short term arts funding to help ‘regenerate’ their area; in other words they are to be socially cleansed and gentrified. Culture Mile is an attempt to rebrand the north-west corridor of the City of London as an arts destination. In a previous post we looked at some of the specific Culture Mile proposals and how these would marginalise working class residents and lead to the social cleansing of the area. The focus of the latter project is the creation of events – particularly middle-brow classical music concerts – that facilitate corporate junkets. In other words Culture Mile is an attempt to impose an anodyne banker’s culture on everyone.

The ‘culture’ corporate funders like the City of London back impoverishes us and the world. Rather than understanding culture as a living and evolving part of our community, the City and its friends want to impose their vapid tastes on us. The aim is to displace living cultures with a dead one based on consumption, where the bottom line is coldly calculated in cash. For us what must always come first are the social relations that create cultures; in stark contrast the ‘City of Culture’ model is based on the commodification and reification of human activity. City of London artwashing is both an attempt to throw a cloak of respectability over the money-grabbing activities of the rich, and a continuation of these activities by transforming what were truly human activities and relations into economic calculations in which objects and balance sheets are valued over what really matters – the people!


Pippa Henslowe.


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