Sunday, April 21, 2024
HomeCulture WarThe Jackdaw needs help to keep flying

The Jackdaw needs help to keep flying


FOR over 20 years, the Jackdaw has been a vital outlet for critics, journalists and artists to expose corruption, mismanagement and insider dealing in the art world, especially in the UK public arts scene. Now its sale has been banned in the very places where people would be most likely to come across it 

The Jackdaw is an independent visual arts newsletter which was founded in 2000 by David Lee, former editor of Art Review. He set out to make his new publication a Private Eye of the British art world. It would prick the bubble of the Young British Artists (Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst etc) who were in their prime 1991-2008, supported by Saatchi investment and the Royal Academy’s 1997 Sensation exhibition, and set out to shock and expand the definition of art to apply to whatever they chose it should.  

With a unique blend of acerbic humour, irreverence and fierce criticism, Lee and his fellow writers (including me, from 2008 onwards) dissected the excesses of fashionable British art and white-elephant projects funded by the state. It made fun of the pretentious art babble found in catalogues and wall labels. It became a hub for the Stuckist (against conceptualism, hedonism and the cult of the ego-artist) dissident movement. 

The Jackdaw has exposed corruption, overspend and cronyism of the arts establishment of the Department of Culture, Arts Council, Art Fund, Tate, major organisations and local councils. (This extends to the pamphlet Abolish the Arts Council, co-authored by David Lee and me, reviewed here.) Beyond negative criticism, the Jackdaw became the UK’s leading independent fine arts newsletter by including news, investigative journalism, opinion pieces, satire, reviews of books/exhibitions, exhibition listings and obituaries. Artists can have their letters printed, as well as illustrated statements. It presents a variety of views, with vigorous debates raging in the letters pages.

Now, due to its trenchant criticism of the arts establishment (much of it from working artists), the Jackdaw has been blocked from sale from every museum shop in the UK. Birmingham Art Gallery stated that it was totally unsuitable for Birmingham’. Combined with its withdrawal from shops and the impact of the recession, this deplatforming has led the newsletter to the verge of closure. Though the website runs some articles, the publication is geared around the print edition, which has six issues per year. Print copies contain exclusive content and the print subscriptions to date have supported its production. It is available to subscribers worldwide and covers American, Australian and European events, in addition to its focus on the UK.

It is its fiercely independent stance that has led to its current crisis. To survive it urgently needs subscribers. For those of us who complain about the failures and corruption of the state and its quangos, something practical we can do is put our money into an organ of dissent and common sense. If you want to support independent art, cultural thought and criticism – as well as opposing the deplatforming of this defender of discernment in fine art – please consider subscribing to The Jackdaw here. 

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Alexander Adams
Alexander Adams
Alexander Adams is a British artist, critic and author, who writes for the Jackdaw. He is author of Artivism: The Battle for Museums in the Era of Postmodernism, published by Imprint Academic.

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