eipcp Policies European Cultural Policies 2015
08 2005

European Cultural Policies 2015

A Report with Scenarios on the Future of Public Funding for Contemporary Art in Europe.

Maria Lind

Maria Lind




In 2015 art is almost completely instrumentalised in the economic sense, regardless of whether financing is private or public. Art then services either national or European interests that wish to construct a certain identity: it is a desirable marketable commercial good for private ownership and it contributes to regional development and provides society with new creative employment opportunities. Visiting art institutions is a popular, easily digested leisure activity. In 2015 art can be used to stave off undesirable fascistic and nationalistic tendencies in society. This is one side of the coin, according to the eight contributors to European Cultural Policies 2015: A Report with Scenarios on the Future of Public Funding for Contemporary Art in Europe. The report is a collaboration between Iaspis (International Artist Studio Program in Sweden) eipcp (European Institute for Progressive Cultural Policies) and åbäke, an international design group based in London, made on the occasion of the Frieze Art Fair 2005. The other side of the coin is a development towards a more critically oriented art, which has found its own ways and means and established self-supporting micro-systems. This art is not necessarily adapted for exhibitions and other established institutional formats, and it is an important factor in civil society. It also encompasses more forms of collaboration than does present-day art.

Without putting any value judgements on the question of the relationship between commercial and non-commercial art activities, one must say that today it is increasingly difficult to distinguish the private and commercial from the public and non-commercial. The categories are extremely porous. Different kinds of values and capital flow in diverse directions and are exchanged. That the Frieze Foundation (which lies behind the Frieze Art Fair) receives public funding from, amongst others, the English Arts Council and the London Development Agency is no secret. Neither is the fact that in addition to the commercial galleries, publicly financed institutions like Portikus, Stedelijk Bureau, Sala Rekalde and Project in Dublin participate in the Frieze Art Fair which is occurring yearly. To invite well-reputed public institutions and organisations is indeed an established practice in several art fairs. What is novel with this one lies rather in the kind of collaboration: the Frieze Foundation has entered into a formal collaboration with the public institutions involved in the fair and together applied for - and the Frieze Foundation received - large sums of money from EU's cultural fund, Culture 2000. So in fact, the activities of the Frieze Foundation and the Frieze Art Fair seem to be forebears to the type of Private Public Partnerships which the report claims will increase drastically in the next decade.

The Frieze Art Fair is generally considered to be a success. The business is going well and visitors are many. Ambitions are high and the purpose of the Fair is, among other things, "to increase the general acceptance and awareness of international contemporary art; inform and educate the artists, critics, curators, gallery owners, students and the general public about international contemporary art, create an annual programme of challenging debate, feature leading international practitioners, that will become part of the cultural landscape and help broaden the public's interest in contemporary art".1 It sounds like a program statement that could come from any museum or gallery - with the difference that the public institutions' mandate to be accessible for a broad public does not have an equally prominent place and that the ambition to be challenging is emphasised. It could even be claimed that art fairs have on their own accord taken over aspects of the public art institutions' role as arenas for exchange and innovation. While the latter struggle with increased revenue quotas, where politicians and civil servants insist on external project financing, greater demands for public-friendly exhibition programs and display a concomitant timorousness about more experimental and critical art, art fairs can afford to be challenging, both as regards the art projects per se and a discursive program. Their funding is already ensured and everything that can be linked to investigation, challenge and exchange becomes an extra bonus.

Does this mean that formulating the agenda in the art world has shifted from art museums and galleries to art fairs? If so, what are the consequences for the art produced today? And for its practitioners, for the artists themselves? It can be illuminating to look at the specific forms for collaboration between the Frieze Foundation and these publicly financed institutions. In addition to placing their expertise and credibility at the disposal of the art fair, the art institutions participate by financing a new art project - preferably with a younger, "fresh" artist - with at least 15,000 Euros and through cooperation with the Frieze Foundation, by making it possible for the Foundation to apply for and receive 179,000 Euros in 2005 from EU's cultural fund, Culture 2000.2 In return, the art institutions receive c. 15m2 space at the fair, rudimentary walls, a number of paid-for nights at a hotel in London, marketing and - not least - access to a very large number of visitors. In 2003, 27,602 people came to the art fair and in 2004 the number had risen to 30,822 visitors. The media coverage of the fair is impressive and one has a chance to attract both more and a different sort of attention than one would normally. Interestingly enough, the collaborating institutions and, consequently the artists they work with, get no ready money from the 179,000 Euro that the Frieze Foundation has received from Culture 2000.

As a "lead partner", Frieze Foundation has the right to decline project proposals which the "partners" submit. This happened to Iaspis' first proposal, which was rejected on the grounds that one of the two suggested artists had already been invited to carry out one of Frieze Foundation's own projects.3 This occasioned internal discussions at Iaspis, a state-financed institution, around the relations between publicly financed art institutions and commercial contexts today, how these relations influence artists, what sorts of latitude artists have in different economic contexts and, not least, what constitutes a "collaboration". A new proposal was submitted and after a slight hesitation, this report, European Cultural Policies 2015: A Report with Scenarios on the Future of Public Funding for Contemporary Art in Europe, was accepted. In the report eight authors from various parts of Europe have studied and analysed today's situation, in seven regions plus the level of European Union policymaking, and taken into account forward-looking policy decisions and on this basis drawn scenarios for what the situation might look like in 2015. As the future of public funding for contemporary art is closely connected to the future of cultural policies in general, many of the authors are also discussing those.

The picture that emerges in the eight texts shows many local variations. What they find and point out is sometimes obvious and already discernible, sometimes more surprising. But an undeniable red thread in all of them is that art is becoming more and more instrumental, especially in terms of national/European identity and as an economic stimulant. Rebecca Gordon Nesbitt, who has studied the situation in Great Britain, with Scotland as a case study, traces, for example, a clear trend of instrumentalisation of art on the part of the state sources of finance. In part, in relation to social inclusion and thereby, its stimulating the labour market; in part through the model provided by the Public Private Partnership which is common within other areas of society, for instance, transport and health care. One expression of this is that Arts Council England supports the idea that the private art market is superior to the type of endeavours that have traditionally been associated with public activities. That it already stimulates a certain type of art production is hardly surprising; neither is it surprising that the kind of art that challenges the status quo and would be critical is marginalized. According to Rebecca Gordon Nesbitt, in ten years this will have lead to a serious polarization in the field of art. On the one hand the public and the private will have combined into a unified market; on the other, many artists will have started up new organisations, not seldom with political activists, developing self-sustaining economies.

In Branca Curcic's study of the Serbian and Montenegro context, today's situation is described as fragmented. State institutions are wholly dependent upon state subsidies, which flow automatically to them, whereas independent organisations are constantly forced to reapply for their minimal grants. Nevertheless, a number of small organisations with independent financing - for example, Rex and kuda.org - have taken on responsibilities that usually come under the jurisdiction of state institutions. Direct support for artists is limited, as is the influence of the market. Interestingly enough, some direct support comes from the Swiss Pro Helvetia - a harbinger of the future. For in Branca Curcic's prognosis, the main financing of art in 2015 will come from international public sources, albeit based on strictly regulated cultural policies. Parallel with this, the individual, working artists will have competition from networks and other informal groupings of artists who join together to obtain greater influence, not least regarding policies that are in artists' own interests. Here Curcic underlines the necessity of clearly distinguishing between commercial and non-commercial production of culture, which requires education in how the different spheres function, in order to avoid the art market as "the most important regulator of aesthetics and trends in the art field".

In conjunction with Berlin's becoming the capital of Germany, a significant shift in German cultural life took place - from the regions to the capital. This "nationalisation" has, according to Cornelia Sollfrank, a direct correspondence with the renewal of the view of Germany as a "cultural nation", and its culture as Leitkultur. For art this has involved several politically motivated prestigious projects, for example, the private Flick Collection at Hamburger Bahnhof has been financed by public means and what's more, increased in value, from a treasury that, in Berlin's case, is in principal empty. Cornelia Sollfrank sees this as a typical example of how public/private partnerships have for the most part favoured the private sphere and its criteria of success - that is, large numbers of visitors, large revenues etc. Against this background it is hardly surprising that less than 1% of public subsidies to art goes directly to the artists - and that that proportion is diminishing. When the classic humanist-cum-bourgeois tradition of supporting "non-mainstream", or art with a narrow public, is now replaced by economic and in other ways functionalist attitudes and actions, Sollfrank's hope rests on self-organised micro-systems. They can offer resistance to the next decade's view of art as everything that is creative and saleable and to the halved quantity of museums, which in 2015, have become equal parts leisure centres and theme parks.

Huseyin Bhari Alptekin is more optimistic in his view of developments in Turkey. Since there is no serious cultural policy in Turkey today - certainly none that favours art - there's not much to lose. Private sponsors and companies are becoming more and more active and are learning to appreciate links to EU policies, where Turkey has figured with several art projects in Istanbul and Ankara and also in Diyarbakir and Izmir. Bhari Alptekin finds it hopeful that more and more non-Turkish artists and other cultural producers come to Istanbul to live and work - but cautions against the exoticism and its consequent conditioning that can so easily accompany policy-related exchanges. But such exchanges do create fruitful collaborations and enable Turkish artists to have greater possibilities to do projects abroad. For 2015 Huseyin Bhari Alptekin would want less hierarchies between artists and public funders, in favour of more critical perspectives based on similarities rather than differences, and where art as another sort of knowledge, has a given place.

Historically, art in Belgium has been characterised by cultural policies based on a separation between Flemish and French groups and territories, and by a large number of private collectors and a rich system of alternative activities. Frederc Jacquemin points out that this has created a myth that artists benefit from the commercial system, while in fact it is the middlemen who profit. Neither has the newly-established state system, the "artist statute" (c 1000 Euros/month), to guarantee a regular income for artists, functioned properly: the criteria for receiving this social benefit is more closely associated with creative industries - advertising and communication - than with serious artistic work. According to Frederic Jacquemin, 2015 will see small steps completed in the global transformation of the cultural apparatus. The many art centres in the previously dilapidated regions of Belgium will be financed mainly by supra-state organisations like EU as part of a massive investment in cultural infrastructures, whose primary purpose has become to satisfy new corporate employees' hunger for art and to keep the "body politic" free from undesired fascistic and nationalistic movements.

Oleg Kireev describes Russia as a society in genuine transition, where artists strive for international acceptance and integration. This means in the first instance an increased commercialisation - which has already begun with a large number of galleries and an art fair in Moscow where the local middle class comprise important visitors and potential purchasers. There is no public subvention for artists, with the exception of the so-called Black Square prize of 5000 Euros, which was awarded the first time in 2004. According to Oleg Krieev this development has already had three palpable consequences: the vulgarisation and de-conceptualisation of art, which can easily fall to the cartoon level; the disappearance of critics and the critical discourse, which is not necessary to sell art; and finally, the growth of a new avantegarde - but from the margins of the prevailing system. He views the avantgarde as part of society's nerve and immune system and he sees it growing around the National Contemporary Art Centers, financed by the Ministry of Culture, in eg Jekaterinburg, Nizhni Novgorod and Kaliningrad, where both individual artists and groups born after the middle of the 70s, test new ideas. It is typical that one periphery seeks contact with another and thereby circumvents the centre of power, Moscow. In the future, Kireev predicts that art in Russia will have a greater role in establishing civil society and that it will function as an important contact between intellectuals and the general public.

In 2015 the situation in Norway - which is till not an EU member - will according to Tone Hansen mean that more money than ever is invested in art but through a Forum for Culture and Business and foreign aid. The State is also more keen on using its institutions, and to demand management by objective: if support is given social effects should be palpable. A number of public institutions have become privatised, resulting in diminishing transparency and accountability, and therefore also less debating of conflicts in the public sphere. Outsourcing of projects has widened the gap between artists and institutions, and the former can no longer count on exhibition fees, something which was instituted already in the 70s. This follows the logic that institutions see themselves as facilitators rather than responsible actors. As several of the other authors have pointed out, Tone Hansen underlines that artists who refuse to become part of the entertainment industry will inevitably live under deteriorating conditions.

How do all these regional part-reports relate to what is going on on the supranational, European level? The plans for a new cultural programme, to follow Culture 2000, has existed as a proposal fom the Commission since 2004. However, due to the rejection of the European constitution in France and the Netherlands, and the failed budget negotiations for 2007-2013, the process has been delayed. Nevertheless, according to Raimund Minichbauer some changes are expected: structural improvements like a more open style of governance, including being more user-friendly, but also more conservative proposals to have more funding for translations of Greek and Latin classical works and economistic proposals stimulating creative industries. The political ambitions are reduced in Culture 2007 compared to earlier programmes and the basic attitude is more defensive, leaving the old idea of culture's intrinsic value in favour of its functionality for EU citizenship, its image-making and foreign policy. Being more clear than its predecessor, Culture 2007 has lost the aspects which are not relating exclusively to the European level. As part of the restructuring of the whole EU budget, in which funding for agriculture would be transfered to knowledge-based-economies, benefits for the cultural industries can be expected. Whether that would benefit the non-commercial art field remains a question. Another change is that the structure of desired cooperations, now called "cooperation focal points", will require more partners, longer cooperations and higher budget thresholds, thereby priviliging big players from richer member states. Parallel to this support for European networks has resulted in an infrastructure for transnational cooperation on a more self-organised level which has made them more visible as a funding possibility. One of the main questions therefore is how much the EU is ready to invest in long-term basic funding for transnational infrastructures.

At the Frieze Art Fair in October 2005, the report will be distributed free of charge. In November 2005 a workshop will be held at Iaspis in Stockholm in which tactics and strategies for concrete actions based on the report will be discussed. The workshop in Stockholm will later be followed up by workshops in Vienna and elsewhere. The report will also be available as a pdf-file on www.iaspis.com and www.eipcp.net

This text is published under Creative Commons License:
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.5/


1 Quote from the Co-Operation Agreement (C&C CORP/SJE: LN:1A31AE5_45(5))

2 In 2003 the Frieze Foundation received 135,616.97 Euros from Culture 2000, and the following year, 148,520 Euros. In 2003 their turnover was officially £11.1 million but is estimated to be more like £16-20 million. In 2004, the official sum was £19.6 million but estimated to be more like £26 million. The profit was???? The Foundation’s application for 2005-2007, granted in May 2005 and comprising 537,900 Euros over three years..

3 Iaspis was involved in cooperating with Frieze Foundation in 2004.