Memo February 2013


A memo sent to correspondents, friendsand acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in February 2013

Quite a few entries have been prompted by Ifacca’s newsletter. Ifacca is International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies, and the newsletter is named acorns.

Monitoring crisis

How much public money does a country spend on culture? Tiny steps are made to arrive at a point when answers cover roughly the same thing. The process is called statistical harmonisation and begins with semantics. Important stages have been reached on the conceptual level globally and lately in Europe (see pages 47-48 for aesthetic pleasure). Yet the latest Compendium attempt reveals field researchers’ myriad dilemmas. Andreas nevertheless met the challenge and compared per capita spending in 29 countries. The table offers lots of information beyond the embarrassment of green equalling red in the 2011/2012 column (raises = cuts).    


Ifacca’s role in coordinating WorldCP, the global expansion of Compendium, is now official.

The European Commission hired a Brussels based consultancy firm to make a study on financing needs in the creative sector. In this connection, you can complain tell about your financing record through an online survey before mid March. This serves the preparation of the new loan scheme to be launched from 2014.

Europa Nostra collects proposals to the ignominious bunch of most endangered monuments. You may nominate neglected objects through one of the local members of the organisation before 15 March.

Eastward shift

The Netherlands is closing its cultural institute in Paris. Of course. On the other hand “the high-quality cultural programme in France requires an active, demand-driven policy. This can be handled by a small, embassy-run cultural section that works flexibly with curators and experts to promote the Dutch cultural and creative sector in France. This solution will be more cost effective and allow a larger share of the funds to be spent on cultural activities.”

On yet another hand Azerbaijan has opened its cultural institute in Paris. The splendour is best seen in full screen mode.

Green shift

Eastward ho, also environmentally: On the Move, the mobility information network has brought out its green mobility guide in Chinese, after four European languages. The booklet belongs to a series by Julie’s Bicycle, a London based not for profit organisation working on sustainability within the creative industries. Also, the endeavour is part of On the Move’s general mission, as displayed in connection with their Charter for sustainable and responsible cultural mobility.

The act belongs to the wave of green awakening of the past decade. In culture, the movement comprises theatres, museums, festivals and other events etc. There is an annual green festival award: the latest winner was an aptly named event in Paris. Not to speak of the European Green Capital since 2010: currently Nantes, then Copenhagen in 2014. 

The EU Ecolabel is an institution apart, with more than 17,000 products (more than half from Italy). In principle cultural services and institutions could be included as there are hotels and camp sites on the list (such as Slovenska Plaža that the catalogue locates to thirty countries because guests can book from everywhere).

More convincing is Nordic Swan, the ecolabel of the Nordic countries, with criteria for restaurants or hotels that could easily be adapted to cultural institutions.

In fact I found the Nordic descriptions clearer and more user friendly than the Julie’s Bicycle guides. Superior are also the recently updated country guides connected to the core function of On the Move: funding opportunities for cultural mobility in Italy, Spain, France, Sweden and Norway.

Investors’ guides

BO was stupefied by the sophistication of artists’ ranking on the Artfacts site. Skatesart matches it in every respect. The latest research report tells all about the global art market. The database contains the latest capitalisation value of the 5000 best selling visual artists, Picasso towering above everyone else with 3.2 billion dollars. Gerhard Richter is the only living artist among the top ten. In fact he has made the greatest leap forward from the 2011 list of all the 5000 individuals. Those losing particularly much were – not to distress BO – Koons, Hirst, Renoir and a couple of living Chinese artists.

The approach is fully businesslike. We learn that the average rate of return of items that were sold in 2012 after an investment ripening period was 22%, calculated on a per year basis. There are strange things at both ends of the list. A Monet generated a yearly profit of 32% after three years; yet another Monet was sold after two years at an annual loss of 12% (an emergency sale, probably).

Official honours

Ifacca prepared a study about awards and other honours bestowed on artists by governments, comparing among others the selection processes and amounts. No information was included from Eastern Europe, where official decorations have rich tradition. Chapter 8.1.3 in the Compendium country profiles will guide you, the one on Slovenia is particularly informative.

Related is the case of the Hungarian Academy of Arts, a non-governmental association of this name, beneficiary of a constitutional coup (put into Article X), whose members receive a monthly fee worth somewhat below the average net income. The government promises to raise their number to 250 and the “award” to about 2.5 times the national average.