More insider dealing at the Arts Council

More insider dealing at the Arts Council


norman lebrecht

March 30, 2011

The Institute of Contemporary Arts in London should, by all reasonable criteria, have been dropped from the Arts Council’s list of benefit claimants.

The ICA all but went bust last year after a lot period of decline. Its chairman, the BBC arts fixer Alan Yentob, and its executive director Ekow Eshun both resigned.The ACE pumped in emergency funding of £1.2 million and a new team took over.

But the venue is off the map of contemporary art activity in London, the audience has fled and despite many brave words of renaissance the ICA is just delivering same-old, same-old.
During the ACE’s discussions on funding cuts, several around the table were of the opinion that the ICA should be left to sink since it cannot swim unaided and serves no apparent purpose.
However, at the selfsame table sat Ekow Eshun,

Ekow Eshunwho was responsible for its decline. It would have been impolite to Ekow to slaughter his former cash cow. So the ACE collectively agreed to throw it a lifeline. Another one. Good money after bad.

And they say the process is unbiased. That makes two members of the ACE who have a direct interest in its grants. No doubt they both left the room at the appropriate time, but still…


  • Tim says:

    Would you prefer ACE’s national and regional councils to be populated entirely with people who have no involvement in the arts sector? Why would this be better? Do you doubt the integrity of the current council members? What is the solution? Your innuendo is unbecoming.
    NL replies: No, Tim. Cusom and practise dictates that people who are actively running arts orgs, or have very recently done so, shd not sit on the funding body. There is a huge depth of experience in ex-administrators and non-administrators who can be called upon. See my book on Covent Garden for history and precedent.

  • Tim says:

    But it’s a very small world – whether someone is currently an administrator or not, all will have agendas, and personal connections to funded organisations whether current or past. You need a good mix – including people who are currently active and engaged in the arts world. As long as individuals are not directly involved in funding decisions regarding the organisation they run (and as you say, they must leave the room) – I’m not sure it’s as scandalous as you’re making out.