In a recent interview with the Guardian Anish Kapoor lamented Britain’s poor attitude to the arts. Kapoor put forward:
“In the UK, while the arts are the second biggest sector after banking, they probably form less than one tenth of 1% of government spending. It’s completely scuzzy. The UK has two things, the arts and education, and both of them it pushes into the corner. It’s the hugest, hugest mistake. Why do British ministers meet anyone from the arts other than to cut them? Compared to Germany, Britain has got quite a long way to go there, frankly:
In short, Britain’s f**ked.”
The artist has recently opened his new exhibition in the German capital, ‘Kapoor in Berlin’. It is biggest and according the artist, it’s also his best to date. This he believed is in response to the Germans much healthier, positive and respectful approach to art.
Are things really as bleak as Kapoor believes though?
I suppose this all depends on whichever economic train of thought you belong to, and how best to stimulate creative activity.
On one hand, creativity costs. It is difficult for artists to maintain high calibre works of art, pay for exhibitions and get there name into the spotlight. Likewise, training in arts such as funding to schools and colleges in order to improve courses and teaching require investment from the state. On a larger scale, it is also costly to return works and draw in world class collections to the nation’s museums and galleries.
The coalition cut art spending by a massive 29% when they came to power, this has had lasting effect. We must take into account though that cuts are being made across the board and there are those who strongly believe arts funding should be cut entirely in favour of other areas. It hasn’t all been bad though, here at the gallery we were accepted into a government run scheme ‘Own Art’. This scheme allows the gallery to offer interest free credit to customers for works under £2000, this has only recently been increased to £15,000 due to the relationship with arts council funding. A positive for the gallery, its artists and the economy.
The other side of this though, is that because of the small amount of funds and help that is on offer. It could be said that money is not wasted, and only the very best artists come to the front. Those with the passion, drive and talent will ultimately (hopefully) be recognised and acknowledged.
It has been put forward that teaching art en mass could actually be detrimental to the creativity of the nation. The rather loose and fluid way art is taught early on in schools can actually be helpful in developing creative and unique ideas that go on to be positively harnessed and perfected during further education. This is in comparison to a structured way of teaching that may instead create of wave of artists whose techniques are built on a strict and rigid model.
Likewise, where the state has cut, private enterprise has helped to fill the gap. BP recently played a huge role in sponsoring and helping bring back a vast collection to an exhibition at Houghton Hall, which was sold to Russia.
Kapoor may a point, and funding is essential to the creative industry. This bleak and negative view is however perhaps too much of an exaggeration. Britain is by no means fucked and what happens here does matter and is picked up both locally and internationally.
Something that I hope is set to continue.