Letter: Arts puppet in the worst of all worlds

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The Independent Online
Sir: We are deeply concerned about the wider implications of the Price Waterhouse review of the Arts Council ordered by the Department of National Heritage. The fact that the report's recommendations have been published before the Arts Council has had a chance to respond to them, has brought them into the political arena. In spite of its authors' protestations to the contrary, the recommendations, if adopted, would seriously modify the policies by which the arts are funded and the already eroded arm's length principle would, at a stroke, be terminally mutilated.

This view is consolidated by the absence of any exact remit for the report in its working papers. If it were wholly to save money (and the report contains a large number of recommendations to this end), the Arts Council itself would be in the best position to advise on where cuts could be most judiciously applied.

The quality of the advice offered is questionable. In the case of the visual arts, it appears to have been prepared in such haste that little or no consultation took place, its recommendations were not thought through and some of the assumptions upon which these were based are clearly erroneous. The report indicates a complete lack of understanding of the function of the art department of the Arts Council and the value of its national and international role.

In our view it would be impossible for the art department to maintain a coherent national funding strategy on the suggested resources or even to evaluate adequately the organisations for which it in responsible.

The result is that the arts are in danger of getting the worst of all worlds. A debilitated and impoverished Arts Council along the lines suggested in the Price Waterhouse report would be little more than the puppet of a ministry which has yet to make its intentions clear.

Yours faithfully,

DAVID ELLIOTT director, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford; SUE GRAYSON-FORD director, The Photographers' Gallery, London; CATHERINE LAMPERT director, Whitechapel Gallery, London; JENNI LOMAX director, Camden Arts Centre, London; LIZ-ANNE McGREGOR director, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham; JULIA PEYTON-JONES director, Serpentine Gallery, London; STEPHEN SNODDY director of visual arts, Cornerhouse, Manchester; JONATHAN WATKINS director, Chisenhale Studios, London


23 June