Art Funding Cuts

Harriet Lodge, February 21, 2018

The topic of cuts to Arts funding has been rife within UK news recently. With Arts an already underfunded sector within government spending, the dent in the budget is certain to cause problems not only for the industry directly but also for recruitment and careers within the Artworld.

Budget cuts have been accompanied by increasing pressures on Art Institutions, such as Museums, required to provide more services to public visitors, including education and increased community presence[1]. Additionally, as stated in the November 2017 Mendoza Review the cuts and increasing pressures resulted in a reduction in job opportunities for candidates in this sector[2]. What does this mean for Artworld talent and recruitment?

Seemingly as ever, careers within the Arts sector are widely sought after, however Museum based positions (unless they are part time or contract work) seem few and far between. Roles in Museums are often on an internship or volunteer basis. Although this cuts expenditure for the Museum it increases the difficulty of less experienced candidates being able to break into a career in the industry. Mendoza further discusses the impact of diversifying and attracting new works into Museums in his review[3].

“Public spending on Museums has declined by 13 per cent, from £829m in 2007 to £720m in 2017”[4]. This is over a £100 million decrease in a decade. Arguably, this may be a cause to increase public interest in Museum collections and attract new members of the community into the space. However, this means installing new exhibitions and community projects that are ultimately going to be an additional cost.

The difference between profit and non-profit institutions also comes into play. Non–profit Museums that are now facing Government cuts will rely on private member spending and charitable donations to fund exhibits. Around 59% of officially recognised Museums rely on some form of public funding[5]. Additionally, the increasing pressure to provide education opportunities needs funding so how does this work?

With Mendoza himself admitting that the array of Museum funding sources makes dividing out money a challenge, it is difficult to ascertain how the expenditure on the Arts could be distributed[6]. Increasing expenditure from buyers and donors in other countries can provide assistance in keeping afloat these non-profit organisations. However, David Cannadine, a President of the British Academy, published a report suggesting “new billionaire purchasers from China, the Middle East, Russia and South Asia had pushed auction prices to ‘stratospheric levels"[7].

So, an injection of money into our non-profit Museums and other Art Institutions is positive to keep diversifying and expanding our Museums aims. Yet, buyers within the UK are simply unable to compete with the big international players, therefore Museums must rely on the donation of artefacts to add to their collections.

Ultimately the funding and staffing levels of UK Museums depends on the type of Museum. Local authority Museums and independent Museums (formally run by local authorities) both suggested they had received the most reduced funds[8]. Both also reported decreases in regular public income[9]. Over 80% of the Museums surveyed noted that their public income had decreased or stayed the same. Clearly we must do more to encourage spending in our local Museums[10].

If we are to inspire people to embark on a career within Museums and in the wider Arts sector then Government cuts that ultimately render the sector as less important won’t motivate emerging successes. Additionally, constantly improving and curating new exhibitions for those who contribute to Museum funding will prove more of a challenge. We must continue to support those in Museum and Arts roles and the institutions that house them.

Written by Harriet Lodge - Recruitment Resourcer at Alchemy Recruitment Ltd

[1] James Pickford, "Museums hit by ‘stratospheric’ art prices and funding cuts,” in The Financial Times Online [15th Feb 2018]

[2] Ibid.

[3] Niel Mendoza, The Mendoza Review: An Independent Review of Museums in England, (Crown Copyright, Nov 2017) pp.56-61.

[4] Pickford, "Museums hit by ‘stratospheric’ art prices and funding cuts,” [15th Feb 2018]

[5] Mendoza, The Mendoza Review, p. 30.

[6] Ibid. p.26.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Museums in the UK Report 2018, [] [] [Feb 2018]

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.[] p. 14

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