Letter: Cash for art

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The Independent Online
It is hard to judge from the content of Tim Hilton's article "The days of whine and poses" (Review ?? January) quite at whom his barbs should be aimed: artists, art administrators or art critics?

Galleries such as MOMA in Oxford have never been "shy of truly radical or innovative exhibitions" and neither do they have the anodyne taste of the committee room. The constraints are purely financial. Fifteen years ago, after having paid the bills, there was still money left over to spend on showing art; plans could be made for the future, and, as Hilton explained, standards of display - and salary bills -were not as high. Now, and for at least the past seven years, exhibition programmes have had not only to be self-financing but have also had to make a contribution towards the costs of overheads. Financial constraints have narrowed the type and number of exhibitions which can be shown. Independent galleries and some museums have been trying, with some success, to break out of this vicious circle; yet to do this consistently they need adequate and reliable funding.

The level of public and private investment in the contemporary visual arts - one of the great success stories of British culture - is a national disgrace. Last year the Arts Council allocated only 2. 7 per cent of its income to the Visual Arts and the whole national infrastructure - museums, galleries and education - reflects the same low level. Hilton's solution - building another art school - misunderstands the nature of the problem. There is no shortage of talent in the Visual Arts in Britain - RollsRoyce exhibitions are produced on Robin Reliant funding - but this is no way to build for the future; the answer to Hilton's criticisms lies in providing adequate levels of support for institutions which already exist.

David Elliott Director, MOMA Oxford

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