Artists crowdfund to save UK museums

The Buck stopped here

The Buck stopped here is a weekly blog by our contemporary art correspondent Louisa Buck covering the hottest events and must-see exhibitions in London and beyond

It’s no secret that the ongoing national lockdown has made the plight of public museums and galleries across the UK even more desperate. At the end of last year, research carried out by the charity Art Fund revealed that 60% of the UK’s museums were worried about their survival, and many now face permanent closure.

“The latest lockdown is a body blow and is leaving our museums and galleries fighting for survival,” says Art Fund’s director Jenny Waldman, who points out that “smaller museums in particular, which are so vital to our communities, simply do not have the reserves to see them through this winter”.

Since the pandemic began, Art Fund has doled out £2,250,000 in emergency Respond and Reimagine grants and today announced its third tranche of £750,000 to benefit 23 more museums and galleries across the UK. These grants have been a lifeline for public museums and galleries big and small, enabling them to take measures to adapt and evolve for the challenges posed by Covid-19.

However, they are not nearly enough. Total applications over the past few months have exceeded £16 million and only 15% of applications have been successful. Already this year the Florence Nightingale Museum in London has announced that it will be closing indefinitely post-lockdown and many more seem set to follow.

To put some much-needed extra funds in the pot, some of the UK’s leading artists have also joined forces with Art Fund to launch the Together for Museums crowdfunder campaign which aims to raise £1 million by offering a range of artworks in return for donations.

“Museums were really important to me growing up, they were a very important part of my life and my artistic education—and they continue to be,” says Jeremy Deller, whose limited edition screen print of a giant golden pangolin on a pedestal is one of the latest series of works released for the campaign today.

“The Pangolin is the most persecuted mammal in the world and is implicated in the early spread of the coronavirus because of its persecution and maltreatment,” Deller explains. He describes his work, The Golden Pangolin (a post-coronavirus sculpture proposal) as being “about how we think about the future and what we prioritise, about thinking of animals as things to be respectful of, rather than to exploit, because they can get their own back on us without meaning to, and, as we have seen, bring the world to a stop”.

Each one of the £400 prints are in an edition of 75 and will be personally inscribed by the artist to the individual donor.

As well as Deller’s personalised, persecuted pangolin, other rewards released today are Cornelia Parker’s print of a Falling Tumbler with Ice (£1500) and the limited edition A Small Thing Enlarged (£950) being offered by the estate of Howard Hodgkin. These works join those of artists already involved in the campaign such as Anish Kapoor, Michael Landy and Lubaina Himid, with rewards for donors ranging from £25 for a set of David Shrigley tea towels to £4000 for Kapoor’s print.

Art Fund is already over halfway towards its target with just over a month to raise the outstanding £440,000. This now looks more hopeful with these new works and the announcement that, thanks to a generous supporter, all donations from today will be matched, meaning every gift will be doubled and have twice the impact on museums nationwide. But sadly it might be too late to save the Florence Nightingale museum, which is especially ironic given that, as one of the founders of modern nursing, her teachings are being used today to help save lives in the very pandemic that is closing the doors of the museum founded in her honour.

Donations and purchases can be via Artfund's website.


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