Director's Blog - March 2019

Spring is springing (kind of!) and we need to find some joy in our lives! I'm looking at the blossom buds on the tree outside my window dripping under the chilly, leaden skies which sort of sums up Spring in the UK in 2019. Brexit drones on with nothing but 'ifs' and 'buts' to go on and the promise of worse to come. Uncertainty is tough, it's hard to move on when you're not sure where you're going and staying in one place takes all the running you can do. So let's take back a bit of control, get out into the world, engage the opportunity to think about the future of the UK's world-leading visual arts sector and how we're going to be growing internationally in a world where there's far more going on than our own little constitutional crisis.

CVAN Visual Arts as a Global Force: consultation

Brexit is not the only challenge facing the UK's visual arts sector in a global context and, whilst its ripples affect many countries, it's not half as interesting to the rest of the world as it is to us. The hard won, hugely valuable and influential work of the UK visual arts sector internationally, its relationships and reputation, is facing multiple challenges, whether these be the result of competition from strategic cultural investment in emerging economies, or the potential impact of UK Government agendas on withdrawal from European Union, implementing its industrial strategy, or reviewing immigration policy.

It is important to understand how these changes may affect us, to marshal evidence-based arguments, and to establish a clear agenda with which to make the case for the visual arts, working with creative sector bodies such as British Council, Arts Council England, Creative Industries Federation, Nesta and other researchers as well as with the other creative sub-sectors.

To this end, CVAN's regions have contributed to commissioning a national report on the Visual Arts as a Global Force from Policy Connect's APDIG group - a think-tank representing the design, crafts, and visual arts sectors. CVAN's Northern regional networks are collaborating to organise a consultation workshops hosted by BALTIC Arts Centre and our Southern and Eastern networks are organising a workshop hosted by UCL's Slade School of Fine Art in London - UCL will also be involved in the policy research element. CVAN's Midlands regions are also working on a consultation process. Because resources are so limited, the workshops will be invite-only with participants drawn from artist representatives, key regional and national arts projects and institutions, and regional and national infrastructure decision-makers.

Everyone across CVAN's networks and the visual arts sector more widely will get a chance to contribute through a survey to help us gather evidence on our global engagement and how it might be affected by Brexit and global conditions. The survey will be conducted confidentially under academic research ethics and which we hope will give us some of the information we need to craft our messages in relation to proposed changes in the immigration framework and movement of objects and ideas post-Brexit. We expect the consultation phase to be completed by the end of June 2019. Data from the workshops and survey will be analysed and the report drafted over the Summer break for a Parliamentary launch in Autumn 2019.

Preparing for the worst - just in case?

The Arts Council England has produced a EU Exit Guide for cultural organisations. CVAN is talking to our counterparts in other creative industries and it seems that people across the creative industries are struggling to plan in the uncertainty and with too little information. Depending on how things develop, we will offer advice and workshops tailored specifically to the VA sector.

We have asked the DCMS about pre-existing and increasing issues with the customary practice of using visitor visas for artists from the global pool to participate short-term in exhibitions or other activities. We have also asked that these questions should be on the agenda alongside provisions for post-Brexit long-term settlement in the Immigration Bill which will be the subject of extensive negotiation over the year and we're keen to get more information about how this is currently working.

We supported CIF's calls for 'freelancer visa' but this hasn't made it into the immigration white paper and is unlikely to succeed. Across the creative industries, representative bodies will be arguing to have the £30,000+ minimum salary requirement lowered for Tier 2 (long term settlement) and for the process to be made easier for SME employers - but it's going to be hard to argue for it to be dropped to a level anywhere near the realistic earnings of most artists. We need to think through a new approach to facilitating movement for young artists and staff in the visual arts in a new immigration framework. CVAN will hope to get more information from our networks and continue these discussions with our counterparts in other sub-sectors to align our messages for maximum impact.

The Global Arts Market

The Art Basel and UBS Global Art Market Report 2019 is out and shows sales are at their highest levels for 10 years, up 6% year on year with values advancing 9% from 2008-2018. Despite Brexit, the UK has regained second place after USA with 21% of global sales as the Chinese art market faces multiple issues and falls back to third place. Art fairs continue to be a central part of the global art market, with aggregate sales estimated to reach $16.5 billion in 2018, up 6% year-on-year. The share of the total value of global dealer sales made at art fairs has grown from less than 30% in 2010 to 46% in 2018, stable year-on-year. The online market reached 9% of total global sales and their use in auction houses is increasing representing 19% of sales in second-tier houses but TEFAF associates online sales with lower-end. 63% of total sales of primary market galleries came from their top 3 artists.

TEFAF also finds that preference for discretion is leading a shift towards dealers and gallery sales which now account for 65.5% of global arts sales. Recent developments in Italy where funding gaps are being plugged by commercial galleries make one wonder how financialisation and increasing privatisation may impact the market role of national portfolio galleries. However, the good news for artists is that the market is expanding overall and the contemporary visual arts as a ‘supply’ for the market is becoming more important.

The 'gender discount' persists at around 50% overall and higher in markets where gender discrimination is most marked. However, stats indicate that the share of women in global exhibitions has risen from 25% to 33% over the past decade. Figures on women in gallery representation indicate a 'glass ceiling' for female artists - no surprise there!

The global art market directly employed an estimated 3 million people in 2018 – with approximately 310,700 businesses operating in the global art, antiques and collectibles market, relatively stable on 2017. It is estimated that last year, the global art trade spent $20.2 billion on a range of external support services directly linked to their businesses, an increase of 3% year-on-year, supporting 375,030 further jobs.

Spring Statement and Spending Review

This year's Spring Statement was never going to be particularly exciting given the uncertainty still surrounding Brexit. Speaking of unicorns, the Chancellor commits to reducing borrowing and debt whilst supporting services, investing in the economy, and keeping taxes low. There are some handouts for STEM industries, no serious mention of creative industries. There are also some concessions for researchers and innovative industries from the cap on immigration for high-skilled workers and a few tweaks here and there but nothing substantive. We'll see what happens in Autumn . . .

The Spending Review has been surrounded by Brexit uncertainty and there was a possibility that the government would stick to a one-year review - but the Statement committed to a three year Spending Review to be announced alongside the Autumn Budget for a "high growth" economy. This means that CVAN needs to begin thinking about our arguments for the Spending Review and marshalling our evidence - with the caveat that the Chancellor's announcement is based on the assumption that we will be leaving in March with a deal. What’s Next are focusing on place and CVAN's regional structure puts us in an ideal position to begin thinking about re-balancing, place, and cultural cohesion. CVAN will work with other sector bodies and engage with the Spending Review via our regional networks.

OFFSTED Consultation

Government is currently consulting on a new schools assessment framework which has implications for the creative and cultural sectors. Deadline for submissions: 11:45pm on 5 April 2019

Cultural organisations welcome the inclusion of 'cultural capital' in the proposed changes but the definition needs widening and should promote active creativity rather than only passive cultural appreciation. A caution against narrowing of curriculum is welcome but, again, these don't go far enough. The use of LEO to assess educational impact for school leavers is likely to have much the same partial or misleading effects as it has shown in higher education. Another welcome requirement for evaluation of children's engagement in critical and creative activity also doesn't go far enough. For a more detailed analysis and support for people who would like to respond to the consultation can be found in the Cultural Learning Alliance's Briefing. Please do encourage you contacts who are engaged in secondary education to respond to this consultation.