How to flood the land with unwanted art

How to flood the land with unwanted art


norman lebrecht

March 25, 2020

Below is the latest handout just announced by Arts Council England and the BBC.

The flaw?

Those artists who have something to say will be doing so already. The others will just cobble a piece of work together for a quick payday. Clearly both organisations are doing their best to come up with some money for in-need artists. But this is not the way to go about it.

Here’s the scheme:

BBC Arts with Arts Council England, as part of an ongoing relationship, is launching a Culture in Quarantine fund for around 25 established England-based artists of any discipline to produce new works in creative media – video, audio and interactive.

Commissions do not need to be about the current emergency, but they do need to adhere imaginatively and lawfully to the principles of self-isolation. Depending on their nature, each work will be hosted by the BBC online and/or on-air.

We will be inviting brief expressions of interest explaining your idea, how it could be made, and a ballpark budget by Wednesday 8 April. Ideas can be submitted by artists or by the organisations that represent them. Collaborations between artists of different disciplines are welcome.



  • John Rook says:

    Sounds like an agar plate of mediocrity. Observe too, if you will, the use of ‘ballpark’, another pointless Americanism now present in British English along with the grammatically suspect Macdonalds-spawned ‘I’m loving it’ as well as many others too numerous to mention. Worth reading Richard Morrison’s article in The Times (the real one, not the NYT) about orchestra managers and the ACE. It makes for shocking reading.

  • John Borstlap says:

    ‘How to flood the land with unwanted art’ – how would this be different than usual?

  • Leporello says:

    19 Variations on a COVID theme. What a hoot (or is that a sneeze).

  • Allen says:

    “The others will just cobble a piece of work together for a quick payday.”

    Wouldn’t be the first time.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Interestingly, in the Netherlands, where since the sixties a leftwing government for a couple of decennia wanted to be seen as supporting the arts, carried-out an unusual experiment. Visual artists who could not live on their sales, or not enough, got a ‘basis income’ in exchange of one or two works of art over a year which were to be collected by the city councils. Although some starving painters were helped by this scheme, what generally happened was that artists quickly painted some crazy thing carelessly put together for the city, and their serious works for their gallery. The result was that the cellars of the city councils got overwhelmed with the worst possible works, which was revealed when the spaces had to be cleared, and the media got a look into the collections. After a couple of years, the scheme was dropped, because it appeared to be impossible to prevent fraud.

      Much later, by the end of the last century, another scheme was implemented: beginning artists got an allowance from the city council for four years, which was just enough per month to prevent starving but by far not enough to live normally, but the artists were allowed to have any job at the side, or earn something through sales of their work (which was and is always something irregular). So, this provided a small secure basis for a restricted period, but without any bureaucratic trouble, and without obliged hoarding by the authorities (which invoked a sigh of relief on that side). This seemed to work much better, but because of all kinds of political reasons – less leftwing parties in the government, more contempt from rightwing parties – also this scheme was dropped, in spite of its proven positive effect and feasibility.

      Funding of the arts and artists has always been a problem since the erosion of private patronage, and the state cannot take on that role. It can only secure the cultural institutions.