New York art world battles proposed “slap in face” budget cut

The 56% cut means that nearly $25 million stands to be lost from an annual budget of $46.7 million

Blood was up in Albany on 12 March, when the New York arts community lobbied the Governor at Arts Day, an organised attempt to reverse his proposed 56% cut in the budget for New York State Council on the Arts. (See The Art Newspaper, No. 6., March 1991, p. 2). Nearly $25 million (£13.4 million) stands to be lost from an annual budget of $46.7 million (£25.11 million) bringing the 1991-2 total to $21.9 million (£11.7 million). In the post-Gulf period, war terminology is much in evidence. State Senator Roy M. Goodman, the Manhattan Republican who is championing the art cause, has been referred to as “the Schwarzkopf of the operation” by Nathan Leventhal, the President of Lincoln Centre. Richard Oldenburg, President of the Museum of Modern Art said, “The whole arts community is massing a major battle; we think economic decline is being used as an excuse for the cuts. We all recognise there are fiscal problems, but the cuts are so grossly disproportionate it is clear they represent a conscious judgement”. Arts institutions are planning a huge appeal to the public and private sponsors. Their strongest line of argument is the undoubted importance of the arts to the state’s economic life, and the revenue it generates through tourism.

New York faces the most serious threat to its artistic life experienced in years. If the state budget is decreased by 56% it will be, as Oldenburg put it, “a slap in the face”. MOMA will lose administration funds, the most difficult thing to find sponsorship for. Oldenburg is worried that the museum will be forced to cover losses by diverting funds from areas such as education and may have to consider redundancies. But for the moment energy is devoted to joining forces with all artistic institutions. “It helps to work with the performing arts; they are more glamorous and have greater lobbying power”, said Oldenburg.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Art world declares war'

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 7 April 1991