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It’s culture vs the UK culture secretary in the Great British Brexit Debate

31 May 2016

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

The polls for the UK’s European referendum may be too close to call, but so far, it seems the great and the good (and indeed the bad and the ugly) of the British arts establishment are throwing their weight behind the campaign to remain part of the EU.

Figures including Jeremy Deller, Tracey Emin, Conrad Shawcross and Anish Kapoor are all backing the drive to remain in Europe. Wolfgang Tillmans has even launched a poster campaign to persuade Britons to stay part of the EU, while both Gabriele Finaldi and Nicholas Serota have also told of their sympathies towards collaborating with European colleagues. Indeed, it’s hard to find a single figure in the creative industries willing to voice their support for Brexit.

Rakewell wonders how the overwhelming opposition has gone down in the corridors of power: both culture secretary John Whittingdale and Munira Mirza – who was until very recently Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture of London – are very much in favour of a clean break with Brussels. ‘If you have an unelected elite that is making decisions about your life, your business and your very way of being, you should have the right to vote them out,’ the latter has stated.

Make of that what you will, but it’s relatively clear where the UK art world has planted its standard. Rakewell imagines that the culture secretary’s public appearances – at the Tate Modern opening this month, for instance – may well be fraught affairs. Will Mr Whittingdale try to whip the culture sector into line?

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