Monday 4 April 2011

Arts Council cuts: part 2

Following on from Jeremy’s recent post, and from earlier posts here and here, the Arts Council also suffered last week following the release of a report by the Commons’ select committee on culture, media and sport on the Funding of the arts and heritage which lambasted the Counsel for “spending far too much on itself”, as well as “wasting” public money.

The report, released on 28 March 2011, reviews the costs of the Arts Council, the Council’s funding decisions and numerous other issues to be considered by arts and heritage organisations in light of the recent cuts in public spending, including the Arts Council Collection.

The Arts Council Collection is currently the largest loan collection of publicly owned modern and contemporary British art in the world, and includes fine examples of work by the UK’s most prominent artists. It is the most widely circulated of all of Britain’s national collections and can be seen in exhibitions in museums and galleries across the UK and abroad. The collection contains over 7,500 artworks and its acquisitions policy is said to have always been characterised by a spirit of risk-taking combined with an informed appraisal of current practice. In 2008/2009, the Arts Council spent £180,000 on acquisitions for the collection, and, as at 31 March 2010, the ACC was valued by its curator at £96.9 million. Works from the collection have never been sold before.

The Report notes, however, that the collection “states that at any one time 25-30% of its works are on show somewhere in the country and that this figure is high in comparison to most public collections, which typically have around 10% of their work on show at any one time. Nonetheless, this means that up to 75% of the collection is not on show at any one time.” Accordingly, the report calls upon the Arts Council to review its policy of never selling artworks from its collection top make the collection self-sustaining and mitigate the impact of the budget cuts, as well as advising that the Council aim to have at least 50% of the Collection works out on loan at any one time.

Unfortunately, the Arts Council is therefore in another difficult position – while it would clearly be able to use the money from selling works from the collection to make up for the shortfall in public funding, it does seem like the Council would also be paying a price in the compromise of the collection’s policy and value.

A piece from the collection: Composite Picture 3 (Diversified Cultural Worker), 2008, Iain Hetherington

The full report can been found here.

Source: The Guardian, The Financial Times 28 March 2011

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