Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Labour Cuts 'Will Set Art Galleries Back a Decade'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Labour Cuts 'Will Set Art Galleries Back a Decade'

Article excerpt


THE head of the National Gallery will use a keynote speech tonight to launch an outspoken attack on Government plans to slash museum and gallery budgets.

Charles Saumarez Smith will accuse Labour of threatening to cut grants over the next three years by seven per cent a year - setting galleries back a decade in the process.

His fears for the future are echoed by leading figures in the arts world contacted by the Evening Standard, who claim collections are being run down due to a financial squeeze.

Mr Saumarez Smith, director of the gallery since 2002, will say: "We are told by the Department for Culture that the Chancellor is threatening to cut the grants of museums and galleries by seven per cent per annum for three successive years.

"Gordon Brown will thereby effectively wipe out all the benefits of the past 10 years. Museumsare not institutions which can easily weather big cuts because they have high capital costs simply to keep open.

"If the government reduces its baseline support by the amount it is saying it will, then the public programmes of museums and galleries, their exhibitions and education programmes, will be damaged disproportionately. I cannot believe that the Chancellor wants this to happen." Mr Saumarez Smith, who will make his speech at the Royal Geographical Society - part of the MRT lecture series on the State of the Arts - will also take a sideswipe at free gallery and museum admission.

"While I applaud the social and educational benefits of free admission, it has been an expensive policy to implement as all the spare cash that has been directed towards national museums has been used in essentiallybribing the former chargingmuseums to go free."

His views have received widespread support. Mark Jones, director of the V&A, said: "Exhibition funding is very low and this impacts on our ability to represent international and contemporary and 20th century art and design. …

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