#artspolicy50: an update on Jennie Lee’s White Paper

The Long Read

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the first – and so far only – White Paper for the Arts, written by then-Minister of State for the Arts Jennie Lee. We’re also just 70 days away from the next General Election – time to take a stance on the future of arts funding.

Timely reports, such as the 2015 Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value and GPS Culture’s A New Destination for the Arts – Between a RoCC and a Hard Place are calling for more involvement of local and central governments into rebalancing the cultural and educational provision and for a new ambitious national policy for the arts and culture.

Meanwhile, the BBC and What Next? have just launched a year-long Get Creative campaign to encourage participation in artistic and cultural activities, and the RSA’s Chief Executive Matthew Taylor is proposing a national contract between the Government and the arts & culture sector, which draft version can be consulted here.

Jennie Lee’s White Paper runs as a red thread through all these initiatives, and a few participants from the last Devoted&Disgruntled event took it upon themselves to put the original text into today’s context. Extracts from the 1965 White Paper are in black, and recent relevant quotes in red (full references are available on the 50th Anniversary Response document).

 

Jennie Lee’s White Paper
A Policy for the Arts
First Steps
a 50th Anniversary Response
to be widely shared on 25th February 2015

 

Only yesterday it was the fight for a free health service. The day before it was the struggle to win education for all … In any civilised community the arts and associated amenities, serious or comic, light or demanding, must occupy a central place. Their enjoyment should not be regarded as something remote from everyday life.

In the zero-sum economy of austerity Britain, the arts are increasingly required to couch their case in terms appropriate to those basic services – social care, education, policing – with which they’re in competition for dwindling public funds. (David Edgar, 2012)

It has been an incredible life-changing opportunity for the town/community. We loved being able to give opportunities to young people. We also discovered so many local charities and companies that we can give a boost to. (Luton Fun Palace, 2014)

But if a high level of artistic achievement is to be sustained and the best in the arts made more widely available, more generous and discriminating help is urgently needed, locally, regionally, and nationally.

Arts Council England has revealed plans for implementing the 29.6% cut to its budget announced as part of the Government’s Spending Review. (The Entertainment and Media Group News, October 2010)

 Too many working people have been conditioned by their education and environment to consider the best in the arts outside their reach.

The lack of opportunity is not simply limiting the people coming in, it’s restricting what’s being written. Working-class kids aren’t represented. Working-class life is not referred to. It’s really sad. (Julie Walters, 2014)

If a sane balance of population between north and south, east and west, is to be achieved, this kind of development is just as essential as any movement of industry or provision of public utility service. If the eager and gifted, to whom we must look for leadership in every field, are to feel as much at home in the north and west as in and near London, each region will require high points of artistic excellence.

2012/13 found that Londoners benefited from £69 a year spending per head, compared with just £4.50 in the rest of England. Overall, a balance in London’s favour of 4.1:1. (Rebalancing our Cultural Capital; David Powell, Christopher Gordon, Peter Stark, 2014)

The concept of the arts centre is most valuable since such a centre can be of almost any size and cover any range of activities. A single hall can provide a place where local people can meet, perform an amateur play, hold an exhibition of their own or of professional work, put on a film show, lecture or recital and generally act as focal point for cultural activities and amenities.

We felt it was really important to hand over the venue to the local community; local individuals and organisations were invited to take part. This ensured a wholly accessible approach, with new audiences in a family friendly setting. (ARC Stockton Fun Palace)

 Certain sections of the press, by constantly sniping at cultural expenditure, made philistinism appear patriotic.

The wicked Tories will be blamed for ‘vandalising’ the arts, just you see. Yet how bad are the arts cuts? Or is much of this merely special pleading by an over-indulged quango? (Quentin Letts, Daily Mail, 2011)

If children at an early age become accustomed to the idea of the arts as a part of everyday life, they are more likely in maturity first to accept and then to demand them.

I am prepared to fight to give children independence and autonomy, and the psychological space to respond in the way they want – and that sometimes means the right to respond and process privately and without adults around or the need for any measurable outcomes. (Purni Morrell 2014, Artistic Director, Unicorn Theatre)

But too often, as boys and girls grow up, the impetus seems to weaken, so that as adults we are more vulnerable than we should be to criticisms of our inadequate uses of literacy, of our failure to appreciate poetry, of our limited tastes in music and drama, of our ignorance of the visual arts and of our blindness to good design.

What is clear now is that young people, especially those in the less affluent regions, are not getting any opportunities at all, because arts … access for young people has been swept away. And I think it will only get worse. Paul Collard, Chief Executive at CCE (Creative Culture and Education)

Nor can we ignore the growing revolt, especially among the young.

I don’t doubt that many of the rioters out last week have no father at home. Perhaps they come from one of the neighbourhoods where it’s standard for children to have a mum and not a dad… Many people have long thought that the answer to these questions of social behaviour is to bring back national service. In many ways I agree. David Cameron, 2011

The crafts also have an important contribution to make in the field of education and leisure pursuits as well as in their influence on good design.

Where else could a knitting fan, a bread-maker, a psychologist, a toy shop owner, a jewellery maker, a storyteller, a poetry fan, a book group, a drama teacher, a scientist, a museum, a library, a fish and chip shop, and a bored marketing manager be involved in creating a day of free entertainment for our town? (Whitstable Fun Palace)

Nor must Government support be given only to established institutions. New ideas, new values, the involvement of large sections of the community hitherto given little or no opportunity to appreciate the arts, all have their place.

We’ve come a long way since Jennie Lee and yet… there is still a significant engagement gap, with education and affluence the major factors influencing likelihood and levels of engagement. (Deborah Bull, Young People and The Arts: Lessons from 50 years of Arts Policy, 2015)

At present, the artist, having finished their schooling, has still to gain experience and has difficulty in obtaining employment. Many turn aside to other types of employment because the life of the artist is too precarious.

The so-called golden age of arts funding has given way to debilitating austerity, particularly for artists who find themselves at the end of a long food chain, divorced from arts funding and policy decision making. (Susan Jones, 2013)

Many well qualified, talented and passionate young people lack the resources to pay their own way through an unpaid internship. (Institute for Public Policy Research, 2010)

In order to bring the arts within reach of a wider public, greater use might be made of the subsidised travel for special occasions which the Arts Council already operate and the practice of giving specially reduced theatre prices to students and to special groups should be more widely adopted.

It’s great to have a £10 a ticket system, but if all the £10 tickets are being sold to people who were buying them for £50 the week before, then that’s no great gain. (Chris Bryant MP)

Between February 2009 and March 2011, A Night Less Ordinary gave 393,657 free theatre tickets to people under 26. (Arts Council England)

The exclusion of so many for so long from… our cultural heritage can become as damaging to the privileged minority as to the under-privileged majority.

This is something worth fighting for. It’s not just about showbusiness – everywhere you go people are discriminated against. And if by having an organised voice against inequality and a lack of diversity we might be able to push that down – how brilliant would it be?” (Lenny Henry, Actor, Writer, Comedian, TV Presenter)

Some local authorities will need a good deal of persuading before they are convinced that the money it is in their power to spend on arts and amenities is money well spent and deserving a much higher priority than hitherto.

For every £1 spent by local authorities in England, less than half a penny is spent on culture. The average net spend by local authorities is only 16p per person per week. (National Campaign For The Arts)

If one side of life is highly mechanised, another side must provide for diversity, adventure, opportunities both to appreciate and to participate in a wide range of individual pursuits. An enlightened government has a duty to respond to these needs.

A new social as well as artistic climate is essential.

Take the Money and Run?

The Long Read

I discovered Platform’s work a few months ago at an early morning What Next? meeting, where Jane Trowell came to talk about the ethical fundraising policies they develop with arts organisations. So when I found out about the day-long event they were organising with Artsadmin – in partnership with Live Arts Development Agency and Home Live Arts, as part of a joint Catalyst project (Arts Council England’s programme for increasing fundraising capacity) I signed up straight away.

The room was packed with artists, arts professionals and activists eager to find answers to pressing questions: if we take ‘dirty’ money, stained with environmental or human rights abuse, are we complicit? Can you – should you – bite the hand that feeds you? Do you best change a system you disagree with from within, or by refusing to participate and using boycott tactics? What can be done, collectively, to secure the future of the arts?

By a nice stroke of calendar luck, the event was taking place only a few days after the long-awaited announcement of BP’s actual amount of cash sponsorship to the Tate – somewhere between £150,000 and £330,000 a year, which represents 0.5 to 1% of the gallery group’s total operating budget, and makes the heavy-handed use of BP’s logo and naming rights (“BP Walk Through British Art”…) seem grossly disproportionate. The revelation is timely, as BP’s current multi-year commitment to four large institutions (Tate, National Gallery, Royal Opera House and British Museum) is coming to an end in 2016, when it will be reconsidered. Without the facts, these institutions’ stakeholders – audience members, artists, staff, suppliers… – can’t weigh in to influence the negotiations. With these figures in hand, it becomes possible to have a debate about notions of public good, artistic integrity and corporate image.

Tate-BP-sponsorship-comparison

BP’s sponsorship in comparison to Tate’s other sources of revenue (source: Platform)

Platform and other activist groups such as “creative disobedience network” Liberate Tate have been campaigning for the past 3 years for this disclosure: a protracted process of filing Freedom of Information requests and battling on legal ground.

As a result, the Tate was forced to un-redact the minutes of its Ethic Committee that they had up to then chosen to black out. These show that the Committee expressed doubt regarding the balance between the money received and the potential damage to the Tate’s image, as well as its social and environmental responsibility as a public institution – and even if their final ‘executive’ decision was that this reputational risk was not yet outweighing the economic benefit, the doubt is still there.

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Extract from minutes of Tate’s Ethics Committee which scrutinised BP’s sponsorship in 2010 (source: Platform)

It’s thus with a positive spirit of achievement through collective action that the conference opened. Hosted in Toynbee Studios’ Art Deco theatre, it was a long but well structured series of short presentations by artists, producers, activists and academics, followed by panel discussions that cleverly included the audience as valued commenters themselves instead of requiring them to ask questions to the ‘experts’ on stage. The event was filmed, so I won’t attempt to give a linear narrative of the proceedings, but rather share a few of the great resources and ideas that I gained from that day.

Take the Money and Run: the Study Guide

As mentioned in a previous postTake the Money and Run? is a study guide based on 9 key texts that aims at providing readers with a set of critical tools, case studies and references to help arts organisations and artists take an informed position on their financial model. Texts include (hyperlinks are to publisher’s website or to PDF/online version whenever available):

1. Art for All: Their Policies and Our Culture (eds Mary Warnock and Marck Wallinger, 2000)
2. The Arm’s Length Principle and the Arts: An International Perspective – Past, Present and Future (Harry Hillman-Chartrand and Claire McCaughey, 1989) (online)
3. Using Art to Render Authenticity in Business (an Arts & Business publication, 2009) (pdf)
4. Free Exchange (Hans Haacke and Pierre Bourdieu, 1995) (pdf)
5. Privatisating Culture: Corporate Art Intervention since the 1990s (Chin-Tao Wu, 2003)
6. Changing the Performance: A Companion Guide to Arts, Business and Civic Engagement (Julia Rowntree, 2006)
7. Not If But When: Culture Beyond Oil (Platform, Liberate Tate and Art Not Oil, 2011) (online / pdf)
8. When Attitudes Become Form, Philipp Morris Becomes Sponsor: Arts Sponsorship in Europe against the background of development in America (Hubertus Butin, 2000) (online article)
9. Culture Incorporated: Museums, Artists and Corporate Sponsorships (Mark Rectanus, 2002)

 

Further Reading

Here are a few links to some of the books, reports and articles that got mentioned throughout the day to dig deeper into the thorny issue of art & money.

 

Picture This – A Portrait of 25 years of BP sponsorship (Platform, June 2014)

A report by Platform outlining 25 of BP’s “major environmental catastrophes, human rights violations, and backroom deals” – one for every year of the BP-National Portrait Gallery sponsorship deal – and featuring “an analysis on the role of art in society in relation to ethics and sponsorship.”

400x568xPictureThis_PrintReady_Cover_web-620x879.jpg.pagespeed.ic.zhkDHxZz6X

Who funds the arts and why we should care (Rachel Spence, September 2014)

Rachel Spence – the Financial Times’ art critic – argued in a recent article that the lack of transparency in funding sources for large museums and biennials compromises the curatorial integrity and the credibility of public institutions. This article inspired an upcoming debate (closed to the public) organised by the Biennial Foundation – the worldwide network of art biennials – exploring “what effects financial resources have on supposedly independent curatorial and artistic narratives of major cultural events”.

A protest over Sydney Biennale’s sponsorship by Transfield, which runs immigration detention camps - (c) Amy Scaife/Van Thanh Rudd

A protest over Sydney Biennale’s sponsorship by Transfield, which runs immigration detention camps – (c) Amy Scaife/Van Thanh Rudd

Artwash: Big Oil and the Arts (Mel Evans, available April 2015)

Here’s a cheery introduction to Artwash by Mel Evans herself:

And the blurb from the publisher’s website:

As major oil companies face continual public backlash, many have found it helpful to engage in “art washing”—donating large sums to cultural institutions to shore up their good name. But what effect does this influx of oil money have on these institutions? Artwash explores the relationship between funding and the production of the arts, with particular focus on the role of big oil companies such as Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, and Shell.

Reflecting on the role and function of art galleries, Artwash considers how the association with oil money might impede these institutions in their cultural endeavors. Outside the gallery space, Mel Evans examines how corporate sponsorship of the arts can obscure the strategies of corporate executives to maintain brand identity and promote their public image through cultural philanthropy. Ultimately, Evans sounds a note of hope, presenting ways artists themselves have challenged the ethics of contemporary art galleries and examining how cultural institutions might change.

artwash big oil

Changing the Performance: A Companion Guide to Arts, Business and Civic Engagement (Julia Rowntree, 2006)

Julia Rowntree, former Development Director at LIFT, retraces20-odd years of action-research into the relationship between art, industry and society based on her fundraising experience at LIFT.

From the introduction:

“… the arts fundraising process is not just about raising money but also plays a vital role in social adaptation and resilience. This is because it can open up channels of communication, human connection, reflection and critique across conventional boundaries of power, expertise, culture and generation… The aim is to deepen self-understanding in the world of the arts as well as in comerce and communities. It seeks a three-way flow of inspiration, learning and public collaboration.”

changing the performance

Fair Play – Art, Performance and Neoliberalism (Jen Harvie, 2013)

A book by Jen Harvie (professor at Queen Mary University of London) exploring the “quality of participation in contemporary art and performance”.

From the publisher’s website:

What is the quality of participation in contemporary art and performance? Is it damaged by cultural policies introduced since the 1997 election of New Labour – and especially since the 2008 recession – which have ‘entrepreneurialized’ artists, cut arts funding and cultivated corporate philanthropy and the ‘creative industries’? Might it contribute to urban gentrification, particularly in London? Has its democratic potential been at all fortified by artists’ innovations in crowdfunding, pop-ups, networking, installation art and immersive theatre; their engagements with ideas of home and folk culture; and their practices of labour and craftsmanship? How can it enhance understanding of relationships between the individual and the group? How can it improve social welfare and nurture social life?

fair play

The First White Paper for Culture (1965)

The very first White Paper for Culture, written by then-Minister of State for the Arts Jennie Lee, was published half a century ago this year. There seems to be no online version of this document, so I’ve copied extracts featured in Art for All? Their Policy and our Culture (a collection of over 60 texts and artworks ranging from political, philosophical and analytical texts, fiction, verse and images, edited by Mark Wallinger & Mary Warnock, featured on the Take the Money and Run? reading list).

Unsurprisingly but rather depressingly, all the issues we discuss today – State censorship, geographical balance of funding, arts education and democratisation of access, artists’ fair remuneration… – were already identified 50 years ago.

  • §1 The relationship between artist and State in a modern democratic community is not easily defined. No-one would wish State patronage to dictate taste or in any way restrict the liberty of even the most unorthodox and experimental of artists.
  • §2 But if a high level of artistic achievement is to be sustained and the best in the arts made more widely available, more generous and discriminating help is urgently needed, locally, regionally and nationally.
  • §10 If a sane balance of population between north and south, east and west, is to be achieved, this kind of development (regional and local facilities) is just as essential as any movement of industry or provision of public utility service. If the eager and gifted, to whom we must look for leadership in every field, are to feel as much at home in the north and west as in and near London, each region will require high points of artistic excellence.
  • §13 The financial difficulties that so many of today’s artists have to contend with must also be realistically examined.
  • §14 In any civilised community the arts and associated amenities, serious or comic, light or demanding, must occupy a central place. Their enjoyment should not be regarded as something remote from everyday life. The promotion and appreciation of high standards in architecture, in industrial design, in town planning and the preservation of the beauty of the countryside, are all part of it. Beginning in the schools, and reaching out into every corner of the nation’s life, in city and village, at home, at work, at play, there is an immense amount that could be done to improve the quality of contemporary life.
  • §15 There is no short-term solution for what by its very nature is a long-term problem. This is a field in which, even in the most favourable circumstances, it will never be possible to do as much as we want to do as quickly as we want to do it. But that is no excuse for not doing as much as we can and more than has hitherto been attempted.

 

Participants

Here are a few links to and videos from some of Take the Money and Run? participants.

Liberate Tate

A collective dedicated to taking creative disobedience against Tate until it drops its oil company funding, founded during a Tate workshop in January 2010 on art and activism where Tate curators preventively tried to censor the workshop participants from making interventions against Tate sponsors.

Reclaim Shakespeare Company

Like Liberate Tate, a member of the Art not Oil coalition, formed in response to BP’s sponsorship of the World Shakespeare Festival and the Royal Shakespeare Company as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Reclaim Shakespeare Company  – also known as BP or Not BP? – are staging guerilla intervention on BP-sponsored stages in Stratford-upon-Avon, the West End, and at the British Museum to turn oil sponsorship into a hot topic within the theatre world.

General Ethical Resources

Corporate Watch

A workers’ coop “investigat(ing) the social and environmental impacts of corporations and corporate power”. Corporate Watch provides profiles of large companies and sectors, publishes research on ethics and business and produces reports and investigations available online.

whats-wrong-with-supermarkets-frontpage

Ethical Consumer

“The hub of the ethical consumer movement” for the past 20 years, with a mission to “make global business more sustainable through consumer pressure”. Alongside the monthly print magazine, a online guide of 20,000 products powered by a sophisticated search engine assigning priorities based on 5 main criteria (below) that can be further broken down into sub-categories to draw the line even more precisely according to one’s principles (thus highlighting the difficulty of making a choice between all these principles):

  •  Animals
    • Animal Testing
    • Factory Farming
    • Animal Rights & Cruelty
  • Environment
    • Environmental Reporting
    • Nuclear Power
    • Climate Change
    • Pollution & Toxics
    • Habitats & Resources
  • People
    • Human Rights
    • Workers’ Rights
    • Supply Chain Management
    • Irresponsible Marketing
    • Arms & Military Supply
  •  Politics
    • Anti-Social Finance
    • Boycott Calls
    • Genetic Engineering
    • Political Activity
  • Sustainability
    • Company Ethos
    • Product Sustainability (organic, fairtrade, energy efficient, vegan & vegetarian products)

Ethical Consumer ratecard

 

John Tusa’s Arts Management Anti-Lexicon

Spotlight

The need to find and use language about the arts that belongs to the arts is as great as ever… The language of the arts must not be the language of management, business or the civil service. We need our own words to define our needs and activities, not an externally imposed lexicon of objectives, outcomes and deliverables in which a sense of purpose becomes a ‘direction of travel’, a difficulty always becomes a ‘challenge’, a dilemma mutates into an ‘issue’, serving your audience becomes ‘maximising stakeholder value’, and clarity and meaning dissolve into fogs of evasion or obfuscation.

John Tusa, Pain in the Arts

Just as I’ve finished to read Engaged with the Arts: Writing from the Frontline, a 2007 series of essays by John Tusa reflecting on his experience as an arts leader after a decade at the helm of the Barbican Centre – a lucky find in my local Oxfam bookshop – he’s already published another book, titled Pain in the Arts, to add his two cents to the debate about the future of arts funding.

The Arts Desk has published a few extracts, from which I’ve borrowed the following anti-lexicon – a damning take on recent developments in arts management lingo.

  • Assessment: “Employed as a justification for excessive intrusion and attempts at supervision.”
  • Benchmark: “A reductive notion that eliminates creative differences and variations.”
  • Customer: “Gone are ‘audience’, ‘listener’, ‘viewer’, ‘passenger’, ‘patient’, ‘traveller’, or any of a dozen different activities and relationships that define a myriad of distinct and particular transactions. ‘Customer’ is literally a one-size-fits-all concept, diminishing particularity and difference.”
  • Discourse: “A pretentious, poshed-up kind of word to describe discussion, debate or any kind of extended intellectual exchange.”
  • Engage: “Why not ‘get involved’?”
  • Holistic: “A grand-sounding word inviting approval of an elevated underlying concept but meaning less than ‘taking many things into account together’. Speakers who use ‘holistic’ are usually trying to bolster a threadbare argument.”
  • Impact (as in “impact studies”): “Here intellectual or artistic activity must demonstrate its case for support by proving in numerical terms that it yields a real ‘impact’ for society, usually social or economic.”
  • Legacy: “Increasingly deployed as a wrap-around word to demand support for a long-term project that it usually failed to deliver.”
  • Narrative: “When I heard an interviewee saying he had been advised by his HR director to improve the way he ‘edited his personal narrative’ – that is, ‘talking about himself at interview’ – it was was clear how far this rot had gone.”
  • Synergy: “A purely hopeful, pre-emptive word, inviting support for actions that claim to deliver hyped claims of success. Whether ‘synergies’ are delivered is rarely examined after the event.”
  • Transformational: “It very rarely proves to be.”

And this is – already – how John Tusa concluded, 7 years ago, his “New ABC of the Arts” in Engaged with the Arts, an update on his 1999 “A to Z of Running an Arts Centre”:

Maybe it’s just me but the shift in the alphabet towards a much fuller, more rigorous, more comprehensive, more demanding set of administrative and managerial criteria is real enough. Some are nonsense. Some are needlessly onerous. Some can actively distort the core purposes of the arts. But they won’t go away. The skill of arts management is to turn the awkward, obfuscating and bureaucratic alphabet into a language that truly serves the arts and their audiences.

 

Sleepless Night, Healthy Cities: the Nuit Blanche charter

Spotlight

It’s Nuit Blanche everywhere tonight: in Toronto, where I currently live, and where I’m hoping to catch, amongst others, Your Temper, My Weather, an intriguing exploration of collective meditation and bees at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the giant Ai Weiwei bicycle installation outside City Hall (where, ironically, the current mayor is not known for his love of alternative transportation); in Paris, where it all started in 2001 (or so the legend goes, but it appears that Helsinki’s Night of the Arts and Nantes’ Les Allumés have been paving the way since 1989-1990); in Brussels, where intrepid urbanites, smartphone in hand, can take part in an interactive game called Raiders of the Lost Archive; in Metz, where one of last year’s piece was this mesmerising all-night video mapping of the markings left by mysterious deep-sea creatures called paleodictyon nodosum, projected on the Centre Pompidou-Metz (below); and possibly elsewhere, as the number of participating cities keeps growing year on year, although some celebrate their participatory art extravaganza at other dates or under other names, such as Light Night in Liverpool.

Given the success of the event, an umbrella organisation, Nuits Blanches Europe, was created to enable participating cities to share their experiences and exchange projects and artists. The project does not seem to have its own website, but I found the following charter on the Nuit Blanche Brussels website, in English and French, which articulates the civic impact ambitions of the initiative:

(English)

  • NUIT BLANCHE is a free cultural event open to all which takes place every year from the end of the summer to the beginning of autumn and lasts one full night.
  • NUIT BLANCHE gives pride of place to contemporary creativity in all its forms: the plastic arts, projections, installations, music, performance art and street theatre, circus arts and travelling shows.
  • NUIT BLANCHE turns the spotlight on public spaces from every angle: places normally closed off or abandoned, peripheral locations or even prestigious or heritage sites, are revisited in a unique way by artists.
  • NUIT BLANCHE allows organising cities to reflect together on how life after dark in cities is currently changing and to put in place appropriate services and methods of organisation (local economy, signposting, lighting, safety, services, etc).
  • NUIT BLANCHE provides an opportunity to promote environmentally-friendly mobility: easier access for cyclists, use of the tram, public transport, river buses.
  • NUIT BLANCHE encourages interaction between city centres and outlying districts.
  • The partner cities of Nuits Blanches Europe decide on a joint artistic project to be implemented each year with a view to developing exchanges not only between cities but also between artists and European audiences.

(French)

  • NUIT BLANCHE est une manifestation culturelle ouverte à tous et gratuite, qui se tient chaque année de la fin de l’été au début de l’automne, durant une nuit complète.
  • NUIT BLANCHE privilégie la création contemporaine sous toutes ses formes : arts plastiques, projections, installations, musiques, arts de la scène et de la rue, arts du cirque et arts forains.
  • NUIT BLANCHE met en scène l’espace public sous tous ses aspects : lieux habituellement fermés ou abandonnés, lieux périphériques, ou encore lieux prestigieux ou appartenant au patrimoine historique de la ville, revisités singulièrement par les artistes.
  • NUIT BLANCHE permet aux villes organisatrices de réfléchir ensemble aux évolutions actuelles des nuits urbaines et de mettre en place des services et modes d’organisation adaptés (économie, signalétique, éclairage, sécurité, services…).
  • NUIT BLANCHE est l’occasion de promouvoir des formes de mobilité « douces » : facilitation de parcours à vélo, recours au tram, au transport en commun, aux navettes fluviales.
  • NUIT BLANCHE favorise les échanges entre les centres-villes et les quartiers périphériques.
  • Les villes partenaires de Nuits Blanches Europe décident, dans le but de développer les échanges entre elles et entre les artistes et publics européens, qu’un projet artistique commun sera mené chaque année.

Louvre-Lens: the universal museum?

Spotlight

In 2003, the French Department of Culture sent a call out to find a location for a new satellite outpost of the Louvrethe most visited museum in the world, with just short of 10 million visitors a year. Only the Pas-de-Calais region, in North-East France, responded to the call and proposed a number of cities; thus a brand new museum, designed by Japanese architects SANAA, opened in Lens in December 2012.

Louvre Lens, ad campaign in Paris metro by Giâm (CC)

Louvre Lens, ad campaign in Paris metro by Giâm (CC)

The Musée du Louvre-Lens – tagline: “Le Louvre autrement” – does not have its own collection but instead displays selected artifacts from the Louvre, in a series of temporary exhibitions – currently Time in Art, “A reflection on the perception of time”, and The Etruscans and the Mediterranean, “A new portrait of the city of Cerveteri”, with explorations of the sacred and of war planned for 2014.

Its main feature is the 120-metre long Galerie du Temps, where visitors can discover a semi-permanent display, drawing from “all civilisations and working techniques (…), from the birth of writing around 3500 BC until the middle of the 19th century, taking in the entire chronological and geographical scope of the collections of the Louvre museum.”

Louvre Lens, Galerie du Temps by Giâm (CC)

Louvre Lens, Galerie du Temps by Giâm (CC)

Louvre Lens, Galerie du temps by Giâm (CC)

Louvre Lens, Galerie du Temps by Giâm (CC)

Lens, at the heart of northern France’s depressed old mining country, was listed as 9th poorest French city in 2010. For a glimpse of what it was like in its heyday, you can read or watch Germinal by Emile Zola, inspired by the miners’ strikes of 1869 and 1884 (the film version features Russian actor Gerard Depardieu).

Louvre Lens by vincent desjardins (CC)

Louvre Lens by vincent desjardins (CC)

Louvre Lens by jpmm (CC)

Louvre Lens by jpmm (CC)

The location of the new shiny museum is brimming with symbols: on a former coal mine, transformed in a landscaped 20-hectare park, between a slag heap and the local football stadium.

Louvre Lens slag heap by y.caradec CC

Lens, slag heap by y.caradec (CC)

Lens, old mine by y.caradec (CC)

Lens, old mine by y.caradec (CC)

Is Lens the new Bilbao? Actually, Lens might be something of a new model for regeneration-through-museums policies, according to Atlantic Cities: with more modest costs and targets (500,000 yearly visitors), the return on investment might be both quicker to be felt and less riddled with undesired side-effects. The article refers to a 2005 book, The Globalized City: Economic Restructuring and Social Polarization in European Cities, where authors Frank Moulaert, Arantxa Rodriguez, and Erik Swyngedouw write:

“… the project transformed the city in unforeseen ways, some of them unwelcome. Economic stratification and social exclusion emerged. The transgressions of the new economic elite went beyond the normal complaints about gentrification, according to the authors; the shock of growth has had unfortunate side-effects for urban governance and democratic participation.”

Louvre-Lens is one of the projects that form The Global Louvre, which comprises exhibitions, excavations, partnerships and long-term loans around the world, as well as the Jean Nouvel-designed Louvre Abu Dhabi, self-titled “The First Universal Museum in the Arab World”, thrice delayed but planned to open in 2015. There’s quite a lot more than cultural tourism at stake here, as explained by the Louvre’s outgoing Director Henri Loyrette in this interview with The Art Newspaper: namely, cultural diplomacy, new revenue streams, audience development and the desire ”to revive (the Louvre’s) founding mission of being a universal museum”. 

Despite the early signs of success for the first two French attempts at delocalising Parisian cultural powerhouses to drive regeneration – Centre Pompidou-Metz is already the most visited exhibition space outside Paris in just 3 years, and Louvre-Lens is following closely – the French government has announced that it won’t pursue new projects of this type in France in the near future, preferring to wait for these two experiments to come to maturity before assessing their impact.

However, the latest French museum to open its door outside Paris, Marseille’s MuCEM, seems already set for a similar, if not even greater success, with a record 1 million visitors in its first 3 months. Designed by Rudy Ricciotti, the ‘Musée des civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée’, one of the key projects of Marseille’s year of European Capital of Culture, is garnering critical praise for its bold design and elegant dialogue between the past and the future, but opinions are divided on its exhibition policy.