Posts Tagged ‘arts funding’

Artist Requests Removal of Artwork from NPG/Smithsonian Exhibition; Foundations Withdraw Support

December 19, 2010

Since the National Portrait Gallery caved to right-wing political pressure and removed the David Wojnarowicz’ video work, “A Fire in My Belly,” from exhibition, other  artists and donor groups have withdrawn their support of NPG.  The removal of the artwork from NPG’s “Hide and Seek” exhibition has been the subject of widespread criticism in the arts community.

One expression of dissent has come from artist AA Bronson, who has requested that his after death portrait of Felix Partz be removed from the exhibition as well.  The photographic portrait was taken shorty after Mr. Partz died as a result of AIDS in 1994.  In light of the removal of the Wojnarowicz’ work, Bronson said, “I feel I have no choice but to withdraw the work.”  NPG has apparently declined to return the portrait, which is owned by the National Gallery of Canada.  The National Gallery of Canada has not withdrawn the portrait and has stated that it will abide by the loan agreement with NPG.

Art organizations have stated their intent to remove both artwork and funding from the NPG/Smithsonian.  The Andy Warhol Foundation has  threatened to cease funding Smithsonian exhibitions if the Wojnarowicz video is not redisplayed.  The Foundation apparently donated $100,000 for the “Hide and Seek” exhibition itself.  The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation has also stated that it will no longer provide funding to the Smithsonian if the Wojnarowicz video is not restored to the exhibition.

In the wake of the NPG/Smithsonian removal, a number of institutions, including the Tate Modern, have announced plans to exhibit “A Fire in My Belly.”


Protesting Video’s Removal, Artist Asks Portrait Gallery to Take His Work Out of Show (Washington Post)

Curators Criticize Controversial Art’s Removal

Museums Jump In to Show Video Removed by Smithsonian

Tate Modern, David Wojarnowicz event, January 22, 2011

[Warhol] Foundation Says It’s Ending  Smithsonian Support

Art War Reinitiated

September 25, 2009

NEA Communications Director Yosi Sergant is the most recent casualty in the reinstated right-wing attack on the arts, according to multiple reports.

Sergant has been accused of promoting a political (pro-Obama, pro-democrat) agenda in NEA project initiatives.  The apparent impetus for the right’s criticism of Sergant was a conference call in which he reportedly suggested the creation of artwork promoting certain policies associated with the present administration, such as healthcare.  In less extreme times it would hardly seem like grounds for dismissal.  Nevertheless, Sergant was relieved of his communications duties and subsequently resigned on September 24th.

This time around, rather than accusing the Endowment of promoting pornography and immorality, right-wing media demagogues have attacked it on political speech grounds.  The main idea, apparently, is that the NEA should not promote the policies of the government of which it is a part, nor discuss them.  Considering the manner in which the previous presidential administration sought to extend its agenda, it’s a hypocritical position at best.

The autonomy of the NEA, and its job of distributing funding to art organizations and artists is vital to supporting the social/cultural dialogue that is the most important component of the arts.  A politically motivated assault on the NEA is no less than an attack on our ability to express that critical speech.

While in some ways, past attacks on the NEA and the arts in general may be interpreted as having been based upon a lack of education in the arts, this situation is not that.  Rather, the aggressors do understand art to the extent that they perceive a power there–critical speech that they seek to subvert. They also want to make a strike on the Obama administration, in any area that they perceive a weakness, and the NEA has proven to be a soft target in the past.  This is clear, but if we want to have an inclusive and progressive society now is the time to take a stand against bullying attacks on the arts.

ABC News:  Yosi Sergant Resigns

Washington Post:  Yosi Sergant Resigns from NEA

Huffington Post: Yosi Sergant Resigns

Chairman Landesman’s statement on the conference call

The Chronicle continues: More Museums Cut Hours, Exhibitions & Staff

September 14, 2009

At the top of the list, reflecting a drop in the value of its endowment, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is cutting down on the number of major loan exhibitions.  Such borrowed exhibitions tend to be quite expensive and the museum apparently intends to reduce the number of the larger of these shows by up to 25%.  Other avenues of raising funds are also being considered.  The Met has long had a recommended (voluntary) general admission fee, but Director Thomas Campbell has reportedly not ruled out entry fees for special exhibitions. Staffing cuts occurred earlier in the year.

The Cleveland Museum of Art cut its budget, but apparently not the number of its employees.  The museum has seen a 30% drop in funding and intends to cut costs, including salaries, to make up the gap.  The museum is continuing with a $350m renovation and expansion.

LSU Museum of Art has cut at least one exhibition from its schedule after learning that its budget has been slashed by 20%.  The museum is also ending its free admission program and will now charge $6 for students and $8 for others.

Detroit Institute of Art is facing the cut of $6 million in funding from the state of Michigan.  The cuts will reportedly come primarily in the form of reductions in staff and operating costs.

The Miami Art Museum has cut staff after a 10% reduction in operating costs but is continuing with a $220 million expansion project.

This listing is just a fraction of the art institutions that are affected by the broader economic conditions and other related organizations, notably local historical and science museums, have been hard hit as well.  Smaller institutions tend to rely on state funding and considering the current situation, are a prime target for the legislative budget axe – with the ultimate result being a limitation on public access to art.

Image:  The Arthur Sackler Gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Chinese Art (permanent exhibition).

New NEA Chair; Exit the Dark Ages…maybe

August 8, 2009

Rocco Landesman was sworn in as the new chairperson of the NEA last week and has already begun speaking about the changes he anticipates for the Endowment in an interview with the Times.

In discussing his plans, perhaps among Mr. Landesman most interesting–or controversial–is his intent to alter the allocation priorities for funding.  The present NEA allocation scheme evenly spreads funding around the country, by Congressional district, regardless of the concentration or quality of the projects in a given area.  In contrast, Mr. Landesman plans to allocate funds according to merit, and presumably by extension–providing more funding in areas where artists and arts organizations are concentrated.  In theory, this should bring more funding to the New York area, other cities, and areas where there are concentrations of artists.

The new Chair also speaks of reinstating individual grants, which would be a tremendous benefit for artists, particularly in these times.  Ultimately, the decision to bring back individual artist funding is a legislative issue.  So–artists–now is the time to write to your representatives about the importance of individual grants.

One point that Mr. Landesman makes through the Times piece concerns the denigration of the arts and artists in the society.  In contrast he mentions that, as a candidate, President Obama had both advisers and policies on the arts.  The implication of all of this is that the dark ages of support and funding for artists may be receding just a little, and perhaps, the societal perception of artists has a chance for progress as well.

New Endowment Chairman Sees Arts as Economic Engine, Robin Pogrebin

U.S. Congress, Write Your Representative:

U.S. Senate:

National Endowment for the Arts

Artifactum, May 12, 2009, Obama’s NEA Chair to be Announced

Museums Voice Opposition to New York’s Anti-Deaccessioning Law

June 23, 2009

Major New York art organizations are reportedly uniting in opposition to the state’s proposed legislation on regulating the practice of deaccessioning artwork.  The legislation was introduced in March by Assembly member Richard Brodsky.  (See March 18 post).  Organizations that have joined in a letter expressing their concerns to Assemblyman Brodsky are said to include the Museum of Modern Art, Lincoln Center, and the Studio Museum of Harlem.  Richard Armstrong, Director of the Guggenheim Museum has apparently also written to Richard Brodsky about the proposed legislation.

Institutions may deaccession artwork for a variety of reasons ranging from the intent of donors, to covering necessary running costs, or to purchase other artwork.  Raising funds has been a particularly thorny issue recently considering the drop in value of some endowments and other economic conditions.  The New York proposal would prevent to use of revenue gained from artwork sales to be used for “operating expenses.”  There has, however, have been some concern as to precisely what such expenses may encompass. 

While deaccessioning may unfortunately curtail the public’s access to certain artworks – assuming such works are sold to private collectors – limiting art organizations from raising funds at this time may be an even greater harm.  Because of this, the potential results as well as the intent of the proposal should be seriously considered.


New York Bill A06959 summary and text 

Notes from an interview with Richard Armstrong, May 2009

 Institutions Try to Slow Bill to Curb Sales of Art