Every day culture secretary Jeremy Hunt and culture minister Ed Vaizey's pre-election enthusiasm for the arts looks less credible. "The arts are fundamentally important" to the
Tories' vision of Britain, Hunt told this newspaper in February. And yet
we see little evidence of Hunt making that case, rationally and
forcefully, to the Treasury at this crucial time ahead of the spending
review announcement on 20 October, when the Department for Culture,
Media and Sport's budget, and thus, that of the arts, will be set for
the next three years.
In fact, the grapevine suggests that Hunt's negotiations with those who hold the purse strings are not proceeding well, and a 25% cut to the arts budget looks like a best-case scenario,
with a dreadful 40% on the cards. Meanwhile, the arts world must take
care that it doesn't come over as a special-interest lobby rather than a
single, intellectually rigorous group with excellent arguments to
proffer. I am not sure it is helpful that there are two pro-arts
campaigns on the go, the similarly named Save the Arts and I Value the Arts. The former put out a striking image yesterday created by Mark Wallinger: an image of Turner's famous painting The Fighting Temeraire with a chunk slashed out of it and the caption "25% cut".