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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 28 May, 2002, 16:21 GMT 17:21 UK
Artists lobby for arts funding
Antony Gormley
Antony Gormley and Peter Blake led the delegation
A letter decorated by artist David Hockney has been delivered to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, appealing for money to improve culture in the UK.


We first encountered some of the great works of art that have shaped our lives... in our local museums and art galleries

The artists
The letter, presented to Downing Street on Tuesday, has been painted by Hockney and signed by other distinguished artists such as Rachel Whiteread, Anish Kapoor and Peter Blake.

The artists have joined forces to lobby the government to restore regional galleries and museums as "great cultural assets".

"We are all working artists who currently enjoy an international reputation, yet we are deeply conscious of the local roots of our inspiration," they say in the letter.

"We first encountered some of the great works of art that have shaped our lives, not in leading London galleries, but in our local museums and art galleries."

David Hockney
Hockney is one of the UK's most successful contemporary artists
The group is asking Gordon Brown to find money to support a report published in 2001 arguing for major reforms to the sector.

The report, compiled by the Regional Museums Taskforce (Resource), called for a cash injection of 250m to restore museums and galleries so they were able to best show off their impressive collections.

Regional museums and galleries had been starved of cash for too long, it said.

It also suggested creating a "hub" museum or gallery in each region which would act as a centre for excellence, with other institutions in the area closely tied.

As a response, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) gave 10m to Resource to implement the hub scheme.

But any extra funding would have to come from the Treasury as part of its Comprehensive Spending Review, said the DCMS.

'Undervalued'

"At the moment we are looking at the future of regional museums and galleries, especially since the rise in visitor numbers," a DCMS spokeswoman said.

In their letter, the artists call on the government to implement the report's suggestions.

The artists are disappointed at the underfunding of regional arts centres, saying they have been undervalued for too long.

"The group hopes Mr Brown will read the letter and take in what has been written about the state of regional museums and galleries and make a commitment to improve them," said a spokeswoman for the artists.

'Desperate'

National Campaign for the Arts (NCA), a lobby organisation representing all the arts, is delighted at the backing of such prestigious artists.

"This is the one of the best campaigns we have ever seen as it will highlight how desperate regional galleries are," said NCA director Victoria Todd.

But arts organisations have been warned to expect a freeze in the next spending round because of a massive investment three years ago.

"The arts were in a dire situation after the lack of 17 years of underfunding through the Thatcher years and the money did help, but if it is frozen again it will set the whole process back."

Ms Todd also suggested Mr Brown should frame the Hockney letter and use it as a bond to plough money into the arts because it was guaranteed to be worth a fortune in the future.


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See also:

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