Listen to this article
London’s mayor has exhorted City workers to donate their bonus payments to the arts or risk damaging one of the capital’s most important attractions.
Boris Johnson gave warning on Monday against cuts in arts funding as new figures showed that business investment in culture was falling.
Private support for the arts, including individual donations, reached a peak in 2008 at £686m, but figures released on Monday showed a 7 per cent decline in business investment over the past year.
Seventy per cent of London arts institutions reported a drop in funding from business sources, according to the survey by Arts & Business, a consultancy that promotes arts sponsorship.
But Mr Johnson, speaking to arts leaders at the Victoria and Albert museum, said it was “more important than ever” to invest in the arts at a time of recession.
“Arts and culture are not a luxury – they are part of this city’s DNA. It is why people want to live and work here, and seven out of 10 tourists say it is a reason for their visit,” he said.
Mr Johnson urged city workers who received “taxpayer-funded bonuses” to “step to the plate and give in a very public way. Because without the arts in London, there would be no London”.
The London mayor was backed by Kevin Spacey, the actor and artistic director of the Old Vic theatre, who said: “Having lived here for seven years, I genuinely believe that the UK’s pre-eminence in arts and culture constitutes one of the nation’s most powerful natural resources.
“But many arts institutions are suffering, and without political will and both corporate and public support, [they] will struggle to survive.”
Arts leaders are being urged to emphasise the economic impact of the UK’s successful cultural institutions.
Mr Johnson said public investment in theatre stood at £121.3m, but its worth to the country was £2.6bn. The Greater London Authority estimates that the commercial creative industries bring 500,000 jobs to London, adding £20bn in value.
The mayor also defended support for the arts from the financial services industry. “They are partly motivated by self-interest because they want to be associated with the lustre of high art, but that is a good thing,” he said.
“What were the Medicis? They were bankers. They did double-entry book-keeping. But they will be remembered forever for their role in the Italian Renaissance.”
Simon Robey, head of Morgan Stanley UK, which supports the Old Vic, the British Museum and the Royal Opera House, said that arts institutions had to show potential business partners that “they too were taking some of the pain” of the recession by clearly explaining their cost structures.
Mr Johnson has written to London’s borough leaders urging them to maintain their support for the arts. Merrick Cockell, London Councils chairman, said the contribution of culture to London’s social fabric was “invaluable, and that’s even before we talk of the financial contribution it makes by attracting tourists”.