Lottery Fund Offers £3m Lifeline To Museums And Art Galleries
23 Oct 2006
A new £3m fund to help museums whose acquisitions budgets have been slashed to the bone or eliminated will be announced today by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The announcement is a response to a passionate campaign, led by the directors of some of the world's most famous collections, including the Tate, the National Gallery and the V&A, but reflecting the concerns of hundreds of less starry museums, which often have no purchase funds at all.
They have watched helplessly as contemporary art collections become frozen, and historic art objects, often previously offered as loans for public exhibition, are auctioned off and frequently exported.
Charles Saumarez Smith, director of the National Gallery in London, welcomed the initiative as "a big step in the right direction". Carole Souter, director of the Heritage Lottery Fund, who will announce the new fund at the Museums Association conference in Bournemouth today, said it had come through listening to the sector's needs.
"Collections and collecting are fundamental to the future of our museums," she said.
The fund, established after months of discussions between museum-sector leaders and officers of the lottery fund, is also intended to help develop curatorial skills and research, as well as activities for the public. Grants of between £50,000 and £200,000 will be offered.
Museums have felt that in the flood of lottery money spent on new or remodelled buildings, the importance of the collections they hold has been forgotten. The situation has been predicted to become more acute, with the Heritage Lottery Fund squeezed by declining lottery ticket sales, and by the new lottery good cause, the 2012 Olympics.
Two weeks ago Mr Saumarez Smith, with Mark Jones and Neil MacGregor, directors of the V&A and the British Museum, warned the parliamentary culture committee that museums and galleries were at crisis point over acquisitions, and that without extra funding they would be unable to meet the challenge of providing a cultural programme to match the excitement of the Olympic Games.
The new fund will throw a lifeline to many museums for smaller purchases - many local museums and galleries can no longer afford to buy anything - but will not affect the headline cases. The entire fund would not pay for one elegant leather glove of Titian's Portrait of a Young Man, recently taken down from the walls of the National Gallery, where it had hung for the last 14 years, when the Earl of Halifax decided to sell: the estimate if it goes to auction is that it could fetch £60m.
Associated Link: http://arts.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,,1929149,00.html
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