With the art world facing the possibility of months of financial difficulties because of the coronavirus pandemic, some major American arts organizations demanded that the government do more to support artists, dealers, and others. The New Art Dealers Association launched a petition last week to get New York officials to provide money to struggling galleries, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art is calling on Congress to give $4 billion in relief to nonprofits. Now, an initiative in the United Kingdom will offer millions of dollars in funding to the British art world, in a move that could set a precedent with far-reaching impact.
Arts Council England, an arm of the U.K.’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport that supports museums, libraries, theaters and other cultural enterprises in the country, has launched a £160 million (about $188 million) emergency fund for museums, artists, and galleries during the coronavirus crisis.
According to Arts Council England’s website, applications for emergency funding opportunities will open soon. It will make £90 million (about $106 million) available to its national portfolio organizations, with whom it already has funding agreements. Among those institutions are the Camden Arts Centre and the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London and Ikon Gallery in Birmingham. A £50 million (about $59 million) sum will be distributed among institutions it does not already support.
Additionally, £20 million (about $24 million) will be available for individuals, including freelancers, artists, and other cultural workers who may experience financial hardship as a result of the outbreak. A report by the BBC states that Arts Council England will make its first payments to organizations and individuals within six weeks.
Sir Nicholas Serota, chair of Arts Council England, told the BBC, “Our responsibility is to sustain our sector as best we can, so that artists and organizations can continue to nourish the imagination of people across the country, both during the crisis and in the period of recovery.”
This move by Arts Council England follows the recent temporary closures of major British art institutions, including the Tate museum network in London, Liverpool, and St. Ives, the Serpentine Galleries and the National Gallery in London, and more so as to slow the spread of the virus.