ICA faces staffing crisis as it struggles to make cuts

Staff at prestigious London arts centre take confidence vote in director
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The Independent Culture

One of Britain's most prestigious modern art galleries has been thrown into the middle of a bitter staffing crisis after employees took a confidence vote in its director.

The Institute of Contemporary Arts is struggling to make salary savings of £1m after it was badly hit by the recession and there has been internal criticism over how its director, Ekow Eshun, has handled the crisis.

The ICA recently received a special £1.2m grant from the Arts Council to help it ride out the economic storm. But staff are angry that redundancies will be needed to make the savings.

Last month they took an electronic vote of confidence in Mr Eshun. At a later union meeting staff decided not to count the results but it clearly indicates that a significant proportion of the staff have little faith in senior management.

The vote came as it emerged that one of the ICA's leading luminaries, director of exhibitions Mark Sladen, took redundancy after clashing with BBC creative director and ICA chairman Alan Yentob. As part of the restructuring process Mr Sladen had been asked to re-apply for the position of director of programmes, an expanded role that would have merged his old position with new responsibilities in order to cut costs.

Mr Sladen told Mr Yentob that he would only be willing to continue working for the ICA if Mr Eshun resigned. In an email sent on 17 February, seen by The Guardian newspaper, Mr Sladen announced to colleagues that taking redundancy because Mr Yentob was continuing to back Mr Eshun. "Alan told me he is supporting Ekow and that the latter is not intending to resign," he reportedly wrote. "So I will be serving out my remaining notice and leaving in late April."

A spokesman for the ICA last night confirmed that Mr Sladen was leaving the gallery but said his departure was part of the restructure. They also confirmed that a vote had taken place, but that because the results had not been made public it did not constitute a vote of no confidence.

"For all we know it could be a vote of confidence," she said.