Coalition Curators - What's their Contribution to the Arts? // Art Talk As part of the Whitechapel Gallery's programme of opening up collections that are seldom shown in the UK, a showing of the Government Art Collection is taking place on 3rd June this year. It will be curated by a group of political figures: Samantha Cameron, wife of the Prime Minister; Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister; Ed Vaizey, Culture Minister; Lord Boateng, former Government Minister and British High Commissioner to South Africa; Peter Mandelson, former business secretary; Anne Pringle, British Ambassador to Moscow; and John Sawers, Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service. This is an exhibition that is being promoted as something that will present the strength of British culture to the rest of the world. These are works that usually hang on the walls of government buildings and embassies, just some of the 13,500 pieces of art that never reach the public forums, and now they are being brought to us courtesy of our leaders and their associates. How far does this exhibition speak of their belief in the value that the arts give to our country? I believe the answer is about as much as the regard that they've given to the arts organisations that have been built up for decades, and are responsible for the success of many important creative individuals and ventures that have given us a culture to be proud of. In their spending review the government announced a 30% cut in the arts budget, affecting theatres, galleries, venues, festivals and funding bodies all over the country. This includes the UK Arts Council, which provides funding to hundreds of thriving organisations and is in turn having to cut their support as well, so many will lose funding all together. This begs the question why the Whitechapel Gallery, a heavyweight in Europe's cultural community and a receptor of funding from the Arts Council, are including this show in their programme. This will produce disputes as to whether they are appeasing an ego trip for many figures that have a powerful influence over them, or if they genuinely believe that the curators can orchestrate a "carefully-choreographed series of displays... sure to draw art lovers from around the world", as Vaizey puts it; (Hey! did you know Mrs. Cameron did an art degree and that Lord Mandelson tried to go on Strictly Come Dancing?). What appears tasteless however, is that during a time when it is most crucial to demonstrate the impact that our contemporary arts can have, and what the budding projects and programmes can achieve when given the grants that they deserve, one of our leading galleries and our country's so-called representatives are creating a ruse that they are providing us and the world with a show of important aspects of our heritage. Some Hogarths, Lowrys and a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I may be iconic and key representations of our history, there's no doubt about it, but should we consider it so special that they're becoming available for us to view over two days? Are we not treated to these public showings of private collections nearly every month of the year, from the oh so generous big guys, who'd rather not give them to the public galleries permanently? A whole other discussion could branch out about public access to private collections, but it's important that we think about what this upcoming show means for the way our art is represented in Britain. The showing of the Government Art Collection will give people fascinated by our past the chance to muse and remark on it, just like the permanent collections at the Tate and the National Gallery, but it will mean nothing to those of us who are concerned about what is being done to our arts organisations. What we need when this show takes place is teachings, talks, debates and alternative events that will highlight what is truly important about Britain's arts right now.