Memo April 2008


A memo sent to correspondents, friends and acquaintances of the Budapest Observatory (BO) in April 2008

Some memos are rather eclectic. This one, for instance.


Public pleas for private giving
Two leading nations in Europe have advocated for measures to boost private giving to culture.

The French culture minister had commissioned the director of FIAC (Foire Internationale d'Art Contemporain) to examine ways to re-conquer the third position in arts sales, which went to China in 2007. Monsieur Bethenod recommended to pay more attention to art collectors, both corporations and individuals, and to give them fiscal favours.

Minister Albanel refers to the good practices in the UK, which kingdom is not resting on her laurels. On the contrary, the relative decrease in philanthropy elicited a campaign for private giving. The campaigners propose to streamline Gift Aid, this superb British device for raising money for charity, admired by BO also because it is so complicated. Other measures call for upgrading, too, like the acceptance in lieu scheme that channels works of art into public ownership.

The main target of the campaign, however, is not the tax authorities. More celebration and greater recognition of the donors by the beneficiaries is called for.

Thousands each day
Every year, The Art Newspaper constructs the list of exhibitions held in museums, set in the order of average daily visitors. Tokyo, as a rule, takes the first place, in fact all first three places in 2007, with exhibitions of Leonardo, 17-19th century Japanese art, and Monet. Eastern Europe used to abstain before the sensational breakthrough by Szépművészeti in Budapest, which made it to the 15th position last year with 4702 visitors a day to the Van Gogh exhibition. From our region, there are two more mentions on the museum show biz rank list across the world: the 224th position was seized by the same Szépművészeti (Inca treasures, daily attendance of 1397), and 373rd was Zachęta in Warsaw: 931 people a day saw 21st century Polish painting.

Cultures on your street
After the mainstream of main streams, here is a glance at the socially committed fringes of the arts: a hopefully successful initiative of the European Commission invites EU residents to take their cameras and capture moments of intercultural dialogue on their street. Prizes are offered for the best photos.

This time the Commission resisted the temptation and does not limit the competition to the young. By the way, BO was half joking about "a public call for innovative, spicy concepts with a lower age limit of 66" - but the US endowment for the arts is totally ernest.  

What makes a creative nation?
Is there a special role for the creative industries in building national self-confidence and international reputation? You have a week left to draft your theses on this subject. If the organisers of Creative Clusters like it, you can present it in Glasgow next November. The concept of creative sector / industries / economy etc. swept across our region, too. There are chances that a few good presentations will be submitted from here before the 12th May deadline on creative economy in smaller nations - which most of us are, in east-central Europe.

Two small, rich and creative nations
The state cultural funds of Finland and Switzerland had almost identical budgets in 2007, somewhat over €20 million. Except that Pro Helvetia for the greater part serves for cultural diplomacy while Taiteen keskustoimikunta is for home consumption. Both call themselves Arts Council in English, and have excellent information services.

Last year the Finnish fund received over 9200 applications and gave nearly 3000 grants - nearly €7000 on average. The highest proportion (24%) went to literature, as this fund also administers the public lending right revenues of libraries. The next two sectors are visual arts and music (19 - 14%). 556 artists received annual working grants.

Due to its different character, the Swiss fund received fewer applications, less than 3000, and gave support to nearly 1500 projects, an average of nearly €16 thousand. The main sectors were music - literature - visual arts (30 - 23 - 21%). Although the 2007 report begins with openings in China and India, still over 2/3 was spent in Europe (including the east).

What matters more for the region is that Pro Helvetia handles the Swiss Cultural Programme in the Western Balkans (SCP), using the funds of the Swiss development agency. To learn more, you are directed to seven offices plus one. Of these Sofia and Bucharest closed down last year and Kiev looks defunct long ago. China in - Ukraine out.

On a few cities (in April)
In April, Maribor and Guimarães presented their plans in Brussels for the European capital of culture in 2012. In January, BO wrote that Maribor had no competitors in Slovenia: we should have explained that those had been beaten in 2007. 

In April, BO was impressed by the plans of one candidate for 2013.

In April, BO presented a paper about the impact of festivals on Miskolc. The next memo will tell about the context. Here is a graph, to raise curiosity. The columns express which proportion of the inhabitants in these Hungarian cities perceive improvement of the cultural events in town.



Pécs will have to warm up its own population before 2010 - although BO had some encouraging news about the artistic programme in April.