NMDC submission to Conservative Arts Taskforce

In July 2007 NMDC made a submission to Sir John Tusa's Arts Taskforce, an independent body set up to inform Conservative cultural policy development ahead of the next general election. More information on the Arts Taskforce can be found on their website.

NMDC Submission to the Arts Taskforce

We welcome the opportunity to influence the development of Conservative culture policy and look forward to working with the Conservative leadership to ensure that the UKs collections retain their place on the world stage.

The attached briefing paper outlines the achievements of the National Collections over the past ten years, including the huge increase in visitor numbers, the significant contribution to the economy and our unique role in fostering debate and promoting understanding of identities. It also sets out some of the challenges currently faced by the national collections in maintaining international status, building contemporary collections and providing for the Olympics.

The briefing paper outlines NMDC work priorities, including where we are seeking support from government. Adequate and sustained government funding is vital to the success of the national collections. But, especially in times of tight government spending, additional alternative means must be found to enable museums to acquire new and pre-eminent objects.

British collections are at risk because government funding for acquisitions has greatly diminished at a time when the price of pre-eminent cultural objects has massively increased. Museums are struggling in particular to build contemporary collections of objects representing the world of the last 30 years. Such collections are vital resources for students, designers and artists in the UK and are essential to enable museums to support the creative economy and foster understanding of the modern world.

The national museum directors support government initiatives to promote philanthropy. As has been demonstrated in Australia and the US, tax regime reforms could go a long way to promote private giving for the public good enabling museums and galleries to raise funds and acquire important items. The introduction of a lifetime gifts policy could be seen as a logical extension of current tax policy: Objects can be gifted to museums in lieu of capital gains tax and inheritance tax when somebody dies and gifts of cash and shares benefit from tax relief in the form of Gift Aid.

The directors believe that donations of objects are an important way of building relations with donors, particularly a new generation of potential philanthropists with impressive collections of contemporary objects and a keen interest in art and design. Once engaged, these new donors may then go on to bigger or subsequent donations, for example capital projects for the galleries that house the donated objects. This is the typical model of relations with donors in the US and as philanthropy at this level is a global market, British museums are currently at a disadvantage. For example the Seattle Art Museum recently received more than 1000 works of art from 53 donors worth more than $1 billion in total[1] - which would be impossible to achieve under the less favourable UK tax regime.

The introduction of a lifetime gifts policy could go a long way to enable UK collections to remain world class. We would strongly urge the Arts Taskforce to recommend to the Conservative Party that they adopt it as a key part of their arts and culture policy proposals.

Read the full NMDC briefing submitted to the Arts Taskforce.


[1] $1bn donations put Seattle on the map by Jason Edward Kaufman, Art Newspaper, May 2007 http://www.theartnewspaper.com/article01.asp?id=628