Arts Council England, contemporary art

Arts Council funding – a modest proposal

April 1, 2011

If you’re heading out to look at some art this weekend, it may be with some relief. Chances are that on Wednesday your nearest gallery made it onto Arts Council England’s list of National portfolio organisations.

NPOs will continue to get funding, albeit reduced by some percentage figure: typically 11%. So most galleries are going to have to scale back by more than a tenth, to offer much less of what they offer so well.

The quality of exhibitions will no doubt suffer and there will be less support for artists. And that varied programmes of talks may have to charge at levels which preclude some non-Etonians.

Of course, there will be job losses too. But even these are unlikely to make headlines. In fact as far as most people in will realise, it will be business as usual. The galleries will still be there.

For this reason, I would suggest ACE change their decision and withdraw all funding from 15 of the most high profile art venues in the country, who in turn should close up shop the next day.

Galleries that must close include: BALTIC, Nottingham Contemporary, Ikon Birmingham, FACT Liverpool, Cornerhouse Manchester, New Art Gallery Walsall, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the beautiful De La Warr Pavilion on the South Coast.

ACE should of course put all several London galleries out of business: Serpentine, Whitechapel, Camden and ICA. And most deliciously of all Kettle’s Yard Cambridge and Modern Art Oxford.

This would save about £14m a year. We would still need to cut another £0.9m, but that could easily come from abandoning work on Turner Contemporary and The Hepworth Wakefield.

Okay, that might be an incalculable loss. But think how 17 major empty and unfinished galleries would play in the hearts and minds of anyone with a scrap of sensitivity: worse than a cancelled outreach programme.

If we are living in a society of the spectacle, why not give this government the spectacle they deserve?

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