Can art ask for public money during a downturn?

WILLIAM SHAW: For the last few months the arts world has been knawing over the fact that the bottom has fallen out of the  private  art market.  Sotheby’s and Christie’s are in trouble, so the latest rumours go. Larry Gagosian says “the art economy is clearly headed for some choppy waters???” Art fairs are cancelled.  Critics wonder if money dragging art down with it, giving succour to those who’ve always said that the art of the last fifteen years was little more than bling? 

But the art world seems to still waft along blissfully unaware that the real fundamental crunch is yet to come. In the discussion of Liz Forgan’s new chairing of the Arts Council there seems to be no space given to the question of precisely where public funding is going to come from over the next five years.

Look to America, a country where the public sector is less involved in the arts. There institutional funding is already disappearing fast; the Huffington Post reports the closure of the Rose Art Museum and the selling off of all its artworks .  MoCA in LA is struggling. The “bailout for the arts” which the American art world has been begging for looks, well… unlikely.

The knock on from gargantuan subsidy for the financial system means that government is effectively skint for the forseeable future. What little money there is for culture is going to be spoken for by Olympic projects until 2012.

Prediction: there will be practically no public money for the arts between 2010-2012, and any that there is will be bound up in pre-existing schemes. As the government starts to make the kind of expenditure cuts it’s going to have to make, even existing funding committments will be broken.

So what happens then?

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology Blog