I’ve been in Vienna yesterday to discuss the future of digital advertising with some interesting guys from Spotify and play.fm (the advertising summit was happening in this massive gorgeous place, the Hofburg, sort of like the Buckingham Palace of Austria). Back in London, I entertained my travel from Heathrow back home to Hackney with some news. Among them I found the following two news items: The London Games called the army for security help. And the gorgeous museum in Berlin, the Gemäldegalerie, plans to relocate its 500 year old masters to make way for a €150m donation of modern classics that would attract more visitors. Question: What do these two news items have in common?
Let’s have a look. With the London games the case is the following: The security company G4S was initially contracted by Games organizer Locog in 2010 to provide 2,000 security staff for £86 million. Meanwhile that figure has risen to 10,400 personnel in a contract now worth £284m. Unfortunately their eyes were bigger as their belly, so to say. They accepted the pitch to make more profit, and they were the most profitable bid for Locog who obviously missed out controlling if they were able to deliver. The result of all this money driven logic? Now the army is called for help. Great! Looking forward the games.
From the Olympic Games security disaster to a Berlin Museum
Meanwhile in Berlin, the Gemäldegalerie considers to kick out its old masters to put them partly in storage. The reasons: Collectors Heiner and Ulla Pietzsch have donated a new collection to the nation on the condition that it is put on display in its entirety (and not in storage). Of course, for most people surrealists and expressionists are somewhat easier to access than old masters from the 15th century, so away with the old stuff and in with the new. In Germany, museums have become the most lucrative entertainment after the movies, they attract more people than theaters or football. It seems that by now we need to please people, and that our public places are driven according to a head count. For sure, we have stopped to think of museums as places where we can learn and discover something about our human past, hereby making human history a place only for experts.
While at first glance, these two news don’t seem to be related, they secretly share one ugly gesture. Money is the logic that drives both, and where once politics have ruled, now rules an economic logic. Earlier on, the buzzing advertising summit with its Google and Blackberry booths erected in the middle of this beautiful baroque ceremonies hall also made this evident. While the summit has been full of discussions of high quality, way too often economy, once a lively debated subject, has much changed with entering the throne. We must have done something wrong. Discursively, it became a monolith whose only logic seems to be profit. That hasn’t always been the case, and it is not good for economy. As the case of the now in deep shit security company G4S makes apparent, to act more profitable isn’t always the best solution. By now, our Western societies badly need another buzzword to keep ‘profit’ in check.
PS: Sign this petition (click on the link) -> ‘Reconsider the plan to empty the Gemäldegalerie of Old Masters’