A few weeks ago, even before the meeting that agents from the artistic sector held on Tuesday with the Minister of Culture, José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes, the Institute of Contemporary Art (IAC), an independent association that brings together some of the leading professionals in the sector, published a report with devastating data on the consequences of the current health crisis in the field of plastics: «In general terms, the economic impact of the activity of the sector during the Covid-19 crisis is situated in two large groups. For 67.7%, the losses will be between € 20,000 and € 50,000, but there is a group of 21.6% for those who exceed € 50,000, the majority of this group being 52.2%, that of art galleries, followed by 34.8% of cultural managers ». The general impression of those surveyed about the current situation is mostly critical, reaching 94.6 who consider that “this crisis situation may have serious consequences beyond the medium term in their professional activity and in our sector ».
“It must be borne in mind that most artists are self-employed,” he declares. Marta Pérez Ibáñez, president of the IAC – so the short-term consequences of the crisis are tremendous: they are seeing how they lose sales, how orders are canceled. For the galleries, not only do they not sell, but the fairs in which they can redirect their activity beyond their spaces fall, when not, as entrepreneurs, have had to start EREs or ERTEsThey have to keep paying rents or mortgages on their premises. To which is added the payment of fees: March has been charged to all self-employed as if nothing had happened here ».
Pérez Ibáñez reminds us that the sector is much broader and that many are affected: «Museums are seeing how their budgets are cut, how they lose sponsors or have to cancel their activities or didactic programs, with the consequent dismissals of their promoters. But there are also conservatives, restaurateurs, critics, curators … All this has come after February, after ARCO, which is the high point of the sector, when many projects and commissions are born, which are now canceled and which they leave many of them without income in the coming months ”.
Before this illiquidity, the decisions adopted by the Ministry after the round of consultations in recent days with different representatives and sectors of the field of culture were expected as May water – with the rush that it should arrive in April – something that, for many, it ended up becoming a jug of ice water: «Today we have to think about the sick. When we succeed, we will do everything to recover the culture “, Rodríguez Uribes sentenced telematically the afternoon of last Tuesday, through his plasma:” We are living through a total crisis that affects the whole of Spanish citizens, not just culture “. For that reason, and for the moment, Specific funds for the sector will not be formalized, beyond the transversal measures to which art agents can avail themselves as companies or freelancers.
“We have mobilized general funds,” said the minister. Right now, it is reasonable that this country get ahead without leaving anyone behind. The time will come when we have to promote culture, when we are in another health situation. Is a much more rational country decision». The Government’s opinion is that «helping everyone, without excluding anyone, is a much more justified decision than acting by sectors. This is not a crisis of culture, but affects all sectors ».
Start how you finish
«Our meeting with the minister hours before – and to which both the IAC and the Consortium of Contemporary Art Galleries, along with two other associations dedicated to the conservation and restoration of heritage – began and ended in the same terms –expresses Pérez Ibáñez–: “The first thing is health, the important thing is to save lives” Of course. But what one expects as a representative of culture is that my ministry protects me, and not that, after meeting with the entire sector, what you transmit to the public is that you stop. Where then is all that we have transmitted to you? When we listen to the Minister of Culture we want to know what he can do within his possibilities to help his sector. His statements made our soul fell to our feet, which we would accept if they were the one that we listened to each minister in their respective appearances ».
The IAC and the Galleries Consortium had agents as outstanding as Román Fernández Vaca, General Director of Fine Arts, and Javier García Fernández, Secretary General for Culture. Before them and before the minister, the IAC provided “effective and productive measures, some of them including updated based on government statements in the last days “: Some included coordination with Europe, cohesion measures between the public and the private (” patronage law, incentive to private initiative and collecting “), and also constructive attitudes in the medium term, which would include «A general comprehensive plan of culture in Spain».
The Consortium, through the mouth of Idoia Fernández, its current president, pointed out at the same meeting the possibility of fixing more or less immediate aid to the galleries to revive machinery once the confinement is finished; Aid so that they can participate in fairs (“those of us who have already committed know that they are at a loss, as they are falling or postponing”); a sectorial table that, in the medium term, «takes seriously the issue of cultural 1.5 – the percentage of investment in culture that public works have to carry out — so that one part really ends up in the contemporary sector and that help to create heritage from plastic»; a managed rescue plan for the entire sector of Spanish culture, and, in that desire of the Government to involve Europe, a reduced VAT for art and harmonized across the continent.
“From the Ministry we have not received any concrete response – specifies Fernández -, but there is a promise of continued dialogue –recharges in 15 days–, that is carried out with very valid interlocutors and that gives the sensation that they are listening to you, since they transmit the desire that we all row together, refloating the sector when possible ». Now, less critical than his partner at the IAC, that does not mean that the Consortium lets its guard down: “We try to be prudent in the face of the almost unavoidable emergency and the hole it creates, but we hope that this” you come back tomorrow “will be as soon as possible.”
Buy Spanish artists in Madrid
Given the total absence of measures, both interlocutors are optimistic about initiatives such as the one launched last week by the Community of Madrid, and which will begin to be effective after Easter. What the Ministry of Culture of the government of Isabel Díaz Ayuso It proposes an incentive plan for the art market in the region based on the acquisition of works of art, which would take advantage of an extraordinary item of up to 500,000 euros.
This increase in the procurement budget would add to those already made this year by the regional government in ARCO (230,000 euros), and to the 10,000 committed in the fall for the Stamp Award of the Community of Madrid, and stands out for the particularity that it has taking into account both galleries in the region, and –and this is important– creators who live in it but do not work with any institution. It is also a expert committee which advises on purchases, which can be applied from April 16 and on which there will be a final answer in mid-June.
“Without a doubt, more measures like this are needed, and, in this sense, our conversations with the Madrid regional government continue,” Pérez Ibáñez explains, “especially to that other aid be opened to other agents in the sector, as curators or researchers. And we are aware of our contacts with other autonomous governments such as the canary, the Valencian, the Cantabrian or the Balearicr, that similar and ambitious strategies are being developed. ” These would be specific programs based also on the acquisition of works or the revitalization of local markets.
Also in Madrid, the CA2M, dependent on the regional government, has launched a project that encourages the production of artistic content. Irma Álvarez-Laviada is one of the participating artists: «It is about #One meter and a half, in reference to the minimum social distance that we have to keep these days towards others. And what it pursues is that, at a time when museums fill their virtual and informative content with ongoing programs, equip Móstoles with creative content. And what is more important: for which we are remunerated».
One freelance fee less
The amount contributed to the selected artists – Andrés Senra, Angela Cuadra and Laviada in a first batch, Carlos Aires Y Antonio Fernández-Alvira in the following – following criteria of quality, parity and non-representation in the collection of the center, it is not much: enough to pay the self-employed fee this month; but it is valued by this creator, very critical of the current situation: «I have the perception, along with other artists, that in all those texts sent by the IAC and other instances to public representatives, in truth creators are not really representing. Everything that is happening shows the lack of union or representative artists ».
This has been made known, along with their claims, in a statement through the Union of Contemporary Artists of Spain (Union_AC), in which they request, among other issues, basic income for creators, exemption from the rate of self-employed until that everything be normalized, suspension of rentals or written confirmation that everything that was suspended will be done in the future by the inconvocative institutions (museums and galleries).
“There are artists like me who believe that the transversal measures taken by the Government are adequate, but tthey also do not take into account our specificities as artists “, Laviada points out:” This is not the time to push, and the first thing moves us is solidarity, which does not mean that we do not request things like that we also have the right to avail ourselves of measures such as the cessation of activity that are included in the Royal Decree as autonomous we are, or that it does not take into account that in March we invoiced a 75 percent more than in the previous month. We are artists. We come from celebrating ARCO. ARCO for many is the basic billing month». For this creator, who also finds it difficult to apply for Community aid («I am an artist who lives in Madrid, but with a gallery outside Madrid. The small print does not take into account my case or it complicates it too much »), once the crisis is over, it is time for your union to organize.
And he points out: «The solidarity exercise that some artists share in relation to the health crisis situation does not exempt with that strongly disagree that culture is not seen as a priority sector when it comes out of this crisis ».
From the Madrid City Council, it is soon intended to deploy measures. Consulted sources report that it will be from next week that the situation will be evaluated and some progress can be seen. For now, it all comes down to extension of terms of subsidies already awarded. This morning its person in charge, the councilor Andrea Levy, recognized in Espejo Público that culture will be the great victim, because it will also be “The one that later in leaving the confinement”: «However, we cannot forget about Culture. It is what makes us free. This will be one of the most affected sectors and that the administrations will have to support ”. Let’s hope they hear it (and hear it).