Live-music-legend and NZ-musical-treasure Rick Bryant used to be a busy muso. The formidably gifted blues/soul shouter ambitiously fronted Wellington’s Windy City Strugglers, led his Jive Bombers, performed with Bruno Lawrence’s Blerta and conducted the Jubilation Gospel Choir. Bryant currently languishes in an Aotearoan prison-cell for dealing cannabis – selling pot, no doubt, in lieu of a day job. Being an artist rarely covers one’s monthly ‘nut’.
Seized along with contraband in Bryant’s flat was $4,000 cash - an amount just shy of the gormless (and shameless) NZ-on-Air $5,000 grant to Sir Michael Fay’s pap-singing daughter, Annabel Fay. Sir Fay – said to be worth over 700 million – reportedly flew NZ-on-Air exec Brendan Smyth and a perk-licking posse of radio-biz players to his Great Mercury Island holiday ‘manse’ as a way (one would suppose) of extravagantly saying merci’ for their imprimatur of the musically impaired Annabel.
Simon Sweetman broke this story, some time ago, but no one (in or out of govt) seems much concerned with this brazen conflict of private/public interest. But then again it was only five grand’s worth of public money and the private elite, at least in this case, splashed out a lot more than 5K as payback for the public credibility afforded his undistinguished offspring.
Popular anecdotes about Merchant Banker Fay (and partner) pocketing wealth through fancy, under-regulated, public-asset swapping and stories about how he was thereafter accused, by the New Zealand Securities Commission, of insider trading are oft told tales in my adopted country. So, I’ll not bother repeating them.
I will submit the opinion that the Great Mercury Island music junket was a sort of asset swap - a trifling slice of Sir Fay’s fat assets, traded for a relatively substantial (1/10th of a $50,000 public purse) suck-at-the-soul of New Zealand sonic culture.
The long run costs to a culture of supporting (with, what Dave Hickey refers to as, “stupid money”) the feeble ‘practice’ of an indistinguishably mediocre trustifarian like Ms. Fay, while spending public money to arrest, prosecute and incarcerate an artist of Mr. Bryant’s caliber is a case of chasing bad money with … uh, bad money.
No one’s saying that Bryant was ignorant of the risks (he’s a repeat offender) inherent in his side-job…and I doubt he’d complain over the inevitabilities he's currently suffering. And I’d guess he doesn’t know who Annabel Fay is, care what she sounds like, or is interested at all in my unauthorized use of his sad case to make my troublingly tenuous (and possibly specious) case about public and private patronage.
Folks in CCH who recently finagled CNZ administrative connivance in facilitating a kangaroo-style faux-art-community ‘election’ and who now, as a result, have their wagons neatly circled around a moldering heap of public funds – funds ostensibly earmarked for sustaining the post-quake arts (and artists) in Canterbury – operate from a similar position of entitlement….and thus inbred mediocrity. I’d hazard that such attitudes are born of the company one keeps - if one is a chronic courtier of the provincial elite then one might feel entitled by one's puppy-like proximity to private monetary power and its perks. I've never seen the AVC big dog (I make a ‘leetle’ joke here) hanging out at any of the art events I attend or sharing ideas (ideas, another micro-absurdity) with any artist I know. But I imagine that house-trained 'beast' can often be found regularly enjoying the Christchurch equivalent (another wee joke) of a junket to Great Mercury Island.
I know, I know that this post’s all over the map. It's the best I could do - given the circumstances. I’ll make the excuse that I’ve been painting hard over the past weeks and that I suffered the worst case of material (I’ll never-ever-ever purchase brand X oil-painting medium again, by g-d) failure in memory. Meaning two weeks worth of fairly accomplished paint passages ended up being scraped off (employing toxic solvents) onto the studio floor to salvage what was left of my undistinguished under-paintings.
I’ll conclude here by paraphrasing two salient quotes I can’t quite recall and am too weary to Google.
The artist is forced to sit on the doorstep of the rich. – Victor Hugo
Great poets die in steaming pots of shit. – Charles Bukowski