Tate Director Nicholas Serota said that the U.K. government’s 15 percent cut to national museums’ grants by 2015 would affect the exhibitions they mount and spelled a sea change for the arts in the U.K.
“You can’t take out nearly one-sixth of the public funding and expect everything to continue exactly as it was,” Serota said in a telephone interview hours after the budget announcement. “Nothing will be quite the same.”
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said today that the Department of Culture will have its budget cut to 1.1 billion pounds ($1.74 billion) by 2015. Reductions in programs such as national museums and funding of major arts organizations will be limited to 15 percent, he said.
Tate, which incorporates four museums in London, Liverpool and St. Ives, said it faces a lowering of grant-in-aid from 33.1 million pounds to 30.9 million pounds at the end of the four-year period.
Serota, 64, said the cuts, while “less than we feared,” represented a “very significant” decline in revenue. “We’re bound to see changes in the way that people program and the quantity of program and so on,” he said, adding that opening hours also might be affected.
“No one can be cheerful about a reduction of 15 percent, and I think it represents a sea change in the way in which the arts in this country function,” he said.
Far deeper cuts of 29 percent will have to be made by Arts Council England, the body that funnels government subsidies to performing-arts groups and non-national museums in England. Its regularly funded organizations include the Royal Opera House, the National Theatre, Sadler’s Wells Theatre and the Serpentine Gallery.
In the U.K., the government gives the Arts Council an overall envelope of cash, and leaves it up to the council to share out the money among cultural groups.
At a House of Commons briefing, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said the government had asked the Arts Council “as a condition of the settlement” that they limit the overall reductions to their regularly funded organizations to 15 percent.
The government also asked the Arts Council to make cuts of 50 percent to its administrative budget and of 75 percent to managed funds, Vaizey said.
“This cut will inevitably have a significant impact on the cultural life of the country,” Arts Council England Chief Executive Alan Davey said in an e-mailed statement. He said his organization had identified 15 percent as being the “tipping point” for arts funding, and now would look at how much individual recipients will get when it meets on Oct. 25.
Separately, the British Museum and the National Gallery reacted relieved to news of 15 percent cuts -- roughly half what had been feared in the run-up to the announcement.
In an e-mailed statement, British Museum Director Neil MacGregor said his institution was “pleased” that Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Vaizey “have recognized the unique role museums play in the world today and reaffirmed their support of free admission.”
National Gallery Director Nicholas Penny, in turn, said in an e-mailed statement that the culture department “has ensured the unique contribution that museums make has been reflected in the settlement.”