ArtFund offers crowdfunding as grant source

Jake and Dinos Chapman are among the artists and organisations to be offered a new funding route after the launch of a crowdfunding service to help Britain’s museums raise money for creative projects.

Fundraising charity ArtFund will give UK institutions the chance to attract donations between £5 and £1,000 through its website to pay for specific exhibitions.

Stephen Deuchar, ArtFund’s director, said it would not charge a fee for projects, unlike most crowdfunding platforms. “We hope this will start a new era for museum funding in this country,” he said.

The charity, which has 107,000 members, will promote projects it regards as “small-scale, achievable and highly creative”, costing between £10,000 and £25,000. If the target costs are reached, donors will receive rewards such as a limited edition print, invitations to events or backstage passes.

Five museums are pitching in the first wave. The Jerwood gallery in Hastings, East Sussex, is seeking £25,000 for an exhibition by contemporary artists Jake and Dinos Chapman, who grew up in the town. The brothers plan to pick up artworks in local emporiums and junk shops before “rectifying” them for the show. Tattoos will be on offer to gallery visitors, in a parlour periodically manned by Jake Chapman.

The Ironbridge Gorge museum trust in Shropshire wants an identical sum for a total redesign of the interior and auditorium of its 1832 gothic-style building, while St Fagans national history museum in Cardiff is looking for £25,000 to build a replica of an Iron Age farmstead from the time of the Roman conquest, including a roof thatched with local spelt.

Compton Verney, a Warwickshire country mansion with grounds designed by Capability Brown, is seeking £15,000 for a “parterre” or formal garden based on the designs of William Morris. The final bidder is the Bowes museum in Barnard Castle, County Durham, which has set a target of £21,000 to redisplay a 15th century altarpiece so as to reveal six oil paintings concealed behind its shutters.

ArtFund found that 92 per cent of visitors to museums gave to charities, but only 40 per cent of those donated to museums. “Visitors didn’t know museums needed their money. They thought donations were something only rich people were involved in,” Mr Deuchar said.

The initiative comes amid a funding crunch for arts organisations, felt most intensely in the regions. Sir Peter Bazalgette, chairman of Arts Council England, this month told a committee of MPs that a funding imbalance persisted between London and the rest of the UK, but said 70 per cent of ACE funding went outside the capital, up from about 60 per cent in 1995.

At a cost of £150,000, the crowdfunding platform, named Art Happens, is half-funded by the Arts Council England and donations raised by ArtFund. It will not be used for ArtFund’s campaigns to save works for the nation, such as the Van Dyck self-portrait it helped secure last year for the National Portrait Gallery or George Stubbs’ depictions of a kangaroo and dingo, the first made in western art.

ArtFund made the crowdfunding announcement at the publication of its annual report, which showed it had raised £10.6m in 2013-14 and helped to fund the purchase of 368 works for 74 museums.

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