Artists Are Workers Too! Long Live The Government Art Collection




The headline-grabbing story in The Mirror “EXCLUSIVE: Nearly £100,000 Spent On Downing St Paintings As Boris Johnson Plans To Slash Benefits” insults and undermines artists and the art profession. The misinformed hacks, Rachel Wearmouth and Matthew Davis deserve a special mention for journalistic incompetence.

Mirror hacks Rachel Wearmouth and Matthew Davis deserve a special mention for incompetence

If the pair had bothered to research what the Government Art Collection Fund was all about rather than distorting its values to serve a gratuitous political angle, I wouldn’t have spilt coffee down my front as I gasped at their ineptitude. A reminder: this article appears in a paper once edited by Piers Morgan and further discredited by the phone-hacking scandal.

The Government Art Collection has been going for over 120 years, through Government and private investment. It champions British art and supports emerging and mid-career artists where it counts by purchasing their work. It helps artists by building their reputations at home and abroad. Works are displayed in more than 365 buildings in 155 capital cities worldwide. The establishment of a permanent UK museum to house artworks not currently on display has been discussed and advanced talks are taking place.

The Mirror states, “Nearly £100,000 was spent on two paintings to adorn the walls of 10 Downing Street as Boris Johnson drew up plans to cut public sector pay and slash benefits. This is incorrect. The two artworks mentioned in the Mirror article were purchased as part of an initiative to bolster culture in Northern Ireland during the 2021 Centenary. The £70,200 spent on an untitled painting by 54-year-old Belfast-born artist Cathy Wilkes would likely have been purchased regardless as Ms Wilkes was the last British representative at the Venice Biennale. It is common for The Government Art Collection to acquire a work by the Bienniale selected artist. The named journalists know nothing about the visual arts or the infrastructure of public arts sector art purchase.

The Mirror stated, “Last year civil servants splashed out £696,700 on new works for the Government Art Collection to decorate Whitehall offices and UK embassies abroad, more than 60% up on the £432,071 spent the year before.” This increase was due to supporting artists through the COVID crisis. The present Government would have had nothing to do with the purchase of these works of art. The selection panel is made up of members of both the Labour and Conservative parties and remain independent. Do your research! and get your facts straight…

And shame on the i Newspaper for copy-pasting the story in today’s edition. Originality is obviously no longer critical to this marginalised publication. – Paul Carter Robinson Artlyst Editor

Top Photo: Cathy Wilkes At The Venice Biennale 2019 Photo © Artlyst 

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