Has politics lost the art of culture?

Only five MPs have the passion to be Culture Secretary, says Tate director

Many a modern politician has been seen breezing into the Royal Opera House or Tate Modern for the latest premiere of whichever cultural event is making waves. Yet this conspicuous presence does not necessarily suggest any serious allegiance to the arts, according to the director of one of Britain's biggest galleries.

The Tate's Sir Nicholas Serota has spoken out against what he believes to be a lack of passion for the arts in Westminster, saying he could not think of even a handful of politicians who could perform the job of Culture Secretary effectively. But he added that the latest Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Ben Bradshaw, was an exception.

"It is difficult to think immediately of five leading politicians who would be natural secretaries of state for Culture, Media and Sport in contrast to Health, for example, where there are always lots of candidates," he said. "Ben Bradshaw is a good appointment, but in my view there are not a lot of people around who take [the job] seriously."

Sir Nicholas made his displeasure known at a lecture at the London School of Economics on government funding and the future of galleries and museums. He spoke alongside Neil MacGregor, the director of the British Museum, who disagreed with Sir Nicholas's assessment of political indifference to the arts.

"I think Parliament is seething with closet aesthetes... there is now a minister in the Cabinet who is responsible [for the arts], which was not the case when I was appointed," Mr MacGregor said. "Now the arts are an issue politically in a way they weren't 20 years ago."

When Sir Nicholas took over the Tate it was in a perilous state. The then prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, had declared that the arts would be subject to market forces. Although the Tate received a government grant, it was not enough to provide for major purchases, especially in the late 1980s when the art market was inflated.

Sir Nicholas said yesterday that the landscape had only "marginally" changed since the Tory government of two decades ago, in spite of greater funding secured by former Culture secretaries such as James Purnell, and the free museum and galleries admission schemes that were implemented by Chris Smith.

Sir Nicholas predicted that galleries and museums could face a tough five years as a result of the recession, but that while corporate sponsorship might have decreased, the generosity of individual benefactors had continued. He added that new acquisitions would inevitably become harder to secure.

"It'll be a tough five years but with the levels of public appreciation and engagement in this country, I'm sure we'll come through," he said.

Mr MacGregor said that one way for the British Museum to continue making new acquisitions was to buy jointly with others, including institutions abroad.

When asked about the furore which re-erupted last month about the ownership of the Elgin marbles and their possible return to Greece to be housed in the new Acropolis Museum, Mr MacGregor was adamant that he would not see them returned and suggested such artefacts should be regarded as "shared".

"It's a question of whether you believe in shared human culture, one culture that is everyone's inheritance, or whether you want to define that in particularly national terms... This is a totally normal European phenomenon, one European museum to have great objects from another great museum, that's why we have one European identity," he said.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
Life and Style
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
tech
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Website Editor

£15 - £17 Per Hour: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently r...

Primary Teachers needed for supply in Ipswich

£21552 - £31588 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: We are looking to rec...

Primary Supply teaching jobs in Stowmarket

£21552 - £31588 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

Year 1 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: The Job An inner city Birmingham sc...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments