Art is never a luxury, it is one of life’s essentials..
Life has an inside as well as an outside. Consumer culture directs all resources and attention to life on the outside. What happens to the inner life? Art is never a luxury because it stimulates and responds to the inner life. We are badly out of balance.
I don’t think of art / creativity as a substitute for anything else. I see it as a powerful expression of our humanity – and on the side of humanity under threat.
If we say art is a luxury, we might as well say that being human is a luxury.
And of course art is essential to what we call culture. I do not want to live like a barbarian. I want to know and care about books, pictures, music, theatre, opera, dance. Why? Because humans invented all these things. Art is part of us. To ignore it or sneer at it, is like ignoring and sneering at ourselves.
I do not know if the peoples of this world will ever live in peace together. I know that cultural values will help us to do that.
When the Taliban destroyed the Buddhas, they were destroying art, history, culture, and, they hoped, the future. You may say, how can we ever have shared values with such people? The truth is that there are many in Iran who share our values, and I don’t mean the shopping trolley of Western Consumerism, I mean the best of the West; democracy, education, equality, freedom, and I believe that all of those things have to do with art. Art isn’t the luxury add-on afterwards. Art is part of the process of civilisation and vital to the maintenance of culture. Without imagination we are nothing. Art is imagination.