Dissecting the UK Arts Cuts: Anish Kapoor and Four Other London Art Figures on What to Expect Now

Dissecting the UK Arts Cuts: Anish Kapoor and Four Other London Art Figures on What to Expect Now
In an attempt to be strategic in handing down Britain's long-dreaded arts cutbacks, Arts Council England today announced its budget for the coming three years — letting English art organizations know if and how the government's drastic pruning will affect them — with a powerful mantra: "No equal cuts for all." The nation's main public funding body for the arts, the council turned down nearly half of its 1,333 applicants, stating that it would only support 695 organizations instead of its previous portfolio of 849. But while 206 organizations that were assured funding in the past have been cut loose, 110 new applicants were granted funds for the first time — and some institutions have even seen their funding increase.

The funding downgrade was necessitated by the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport's announcement last year the council's coffers would decrease by 29.6 percent over four years, from £452 million to £350 million. The council's unequal apportioning of cuts have left some clear winners and losers among London's main visual art organizations. The Serpentine Gallery and the Whitechapel Gallery, both beacons of the city's dynamic contemporary art scene, have seen their funding go up by 31.2 percent and 15 percent respectively. However, funding for the Institute of Contemporary Arts — which has been in deep financial troubles for the last year and half — has been cut by 42 percent, down to £900,000. Meanwhile, Arts & Business, a nonprofit dedicated to helping other organizations set up partnerships with businesses in the private sector, will lose all of its Arts Council funding. Performing arts organizations, such as opera houses and theaters, have also been hard hit.


To assess the consequences of the cuts on the British art world, ARTINFO UK sounded out a range of figures for their take on the new financial reality.


JONATHAN TUCHNER, representative of Arts & Business
Lost all of its funding


In the last spending round, Arts & Business received £3.9 million from the Arts Council. We were informed in October 2010, that as well as having a cut of £160,000 were also going to have our funding reduced by 50 percent for 2011, 2012, and then from then on, we were going to get no money through the Council's National Portfolios. So as an organization, we went from £4 million to £1.92 million to nothing. We were also told at the Department of Culture, Media, and Sport committee that they intend to work with Arts & Business outside of the NPO Portfolio [the Council's Nonprofit Organization Portfolio]. When we learned this last October, we were surprised because we knew that at this moment in time so many of our cultural partners were going to need our help, our knowledge, and our expertise. We've seen the demand for our services increase. Obviously more and more organizations are finding that they cannot rely on public money as much as they used to. It's a huge moment for the arts — a significant, pivotal moment — but it's also a time for art organizations to start looking less toward the public sector and to turn to the private sector. It's where the future for the arts in the U.K. lies.

MARGOT HELLER, director of the South London Gallery
Saw a
107 percent increase of funding, to £846,752 in 2014/15 

Everyone at the South London Gallery is completely thrilled by the news. We are also hugely relieved, given that the increase has been granted in a time of spending review and severe cuts for the arts budget, and that we have doubled in size and tripled our audience since our new building extension opened last June. We are particularly pleased by the incremental nature of the increase which means that by the end of the three years we will be able to significantly develop the scope and ambition of our international programmes, and their impact locally, nationally and internationally. We are extremely pleased and grateful that our efforts over the last decade have been recognized by the Arts Council.

JENNI LOMAX, director of the Camden Arts Centre
Saw a 15.6 percent funding increase 

We are very pleased that we got what we applied for from the Arts Council. It means that we can continue to support emerging and lesser-known artists. It's great that they've shown their confidence in our program. We've got cuts to come from the local authority: Camden Council is going to blow in our budget next year, and that's true for a lot of other organizations. So we are relieved that we've got that cushioned down. I'm also really pleased to see that the Arts Council is supporting some of the younger and smaller visual arts organizations like PEER, the Drawing Room, and Studio Voltaire, but obviously I feel for those who have taken cuts because it'll be a challenge. Just looking very briefly at the overall picture, it does seem that the Arts Council are being very true to their word of being strategic and looking at the geographical spread. By making sure that a lot of the newer regional galleries have got a bit of a cushion will mean that the arts’ provision is protected at least for the next three years. There still will be a squeeze from the local authorities’ cuts but that’s something that will only emerge in the next few months.

Anish Kapoor, artist

The effect of these cuts is devastating on culture and creativity in this country. The relatively small amounts of money involved make it especially ridiculous given that the arts in the U.K. are so successful and bring in such huge rewards. Visitors from abroad come here for our museums — amazingly, eight out of our top ten tourist attractions are museums. Our theater is acknowledged to be the best in the world. The arts give Britain an international edge as an exciting and creative place to live, work, and do business. But all this is in jeopardy with these cuts. Art schools and the arts and humanities departments of our universities will be set back at least 50 years. I condemn this short-sighted policy which will take us backwards as a nation.

ANDREAS GEGNER, director of Sprüth Magers London Gallery

It seems to be not so bad. What I think is very good is that we are living in a new reality. For the last three months, everybody was paralyzed, waiting to hear if they will be able to survive. Now, finally, we know what the situation is. For some it's a very rough reality to face, for others it's a very positive reality, and for still others nothing has changed. But at least we have a situation on which we can build on and work with. Now we can see what needs to be done to keep the arts going and to make the best of what has happened. What's also positive is that in reaction to the cuts, the Arts Council has started shaking up its portfolio. They have taken in some new institutions and have thrown out institutions that they think haven't performed as well as they would have expected. Every change is positive in some ways, and gives the possibility of a new start. Sometimes a tree needs to be cut back so that it can grow again and blossom. The part of the art market that Sprüth Magers is working in is at the very established end of the arts. Sadly, the institutions that have suffered the most from the cuts are at the other end of the arts: small organizations working with disadvantaged groups. This seems to be very far away from what we are doing. Nevertheless, my fear is that as a result of the cuts some very financially powerful players in the art market, galleries or private individuals, might gain an even greater influence on the cultural sector.