Stage plays ending their run ahead of time; the death of the UK Film Council; part one of a four-year plan to slash the Arts Council’s budgets by a third: 2011 isn’t set to be the best of years for culture in London. Despite the severe cuts facing all sectors as the coalition government charts its recovery for the country’s economy, the year ahead does seem to have one cultural silver lining – the art world.
With Frieze Art Fair back on its feet after a few shaky years, Tate Modern celebrating its 10th anniversary, museum figures higher than ever and the world’s most expensive artwork being sold in a London showroom for £65m in February, it’s not been a bad year for the art market – and the innings looks set to continue.
Instead of institutions buckling, more are opening. London’s premier contemporary centre, the Serpentine Gallery, is gaining a second outpost located just minutes from the current gallery in Hyde Park. The new Serpentine Sackler Gallery will be housed in an unused park building, set to be re-designed by Zaha Hadid, and will open in time for the 2012 Olympics.
Transforming the contemporary scene even further, Charles Saatchi’s Museum for Contemporary Art for London (Moca London), is set to become one of the most important free-to-enter public art institutions in the capital – if it ever happens. There has been a string of logistical problems getting this off the ground since its was first announced in July.
Despite belts being tightened and job losses expected, there’s some buoyancy in the public arena too: despite pessimism, both the £130m extension to the British Museum, and the £215m Herzog + de Meuron extension to Tate Modern are going ahead. With national museums only getting a cut of 15 per cent (by comparison, the Arts Council’s budget is being slashed by a third), and with the government insisting they will remain free to enter, expect a fair vintage from 2011.
“They won’t thank us for saying it, but art museums have got off relatively lightly,” says Jane Morris, editor of The Art Newspaper, who has high hopes for the creatives tool. “It’s a bit of cliché to say that art flourishes in recessions,” she adds. “Cheap studio space and the dole helped a lot in the last one – which isn’t true today – but it does often flourish in interesting political times.”
On that basis, 2011 could turn out to be rather good.