Art: Grand National Product

In early August, the leading English playwright Mark Ravenhill said in his opening address at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival that for the next decade or so he imagines that artists from every discipline will be working in “increasingly tough times”.
While funding may well dry up, loose pocket change thrown arbitrarily towards the creative industries, Ravenhill remains optimistic about our capacity to flourish, to be able to produce provocative, timeless and captivating work.
“Didn’t the arts become safe and well behaved during the New Labour years?” he said. “I think they did. I think they weren’t telling the truth – the dirty, dangerous, hilarious, upsetting, disruptive, noisy, beautiful truth – as often as they should have done.
“You are artists. You are making art. You have your own language. You have your own unique way of doing things. You are making your own rules.”
It was an interesting speech; one that went some way in highlighting the simple truth that art has always mattered and always will. What is seemingly and perpetually misunderstood – especially at a ministerial level – is the importance of the arts. Not just aesthetically and emotionally, but financially.
Beyond its base use as a form of expression, criticism and sensory stimulant, the arts sector has so much potential economically. It just needs to be better understood by politicians. Bail out banks, sure, but not to the detriment of everyone else.
Let’s speak finance then, as a means of being persuasive. Arts can equal money and if you don’t believe in that, look at a special new report entitled Grand National Product. Examining the economic impact of the historic Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam – which underwent a massive decade-long restoration effort (closed between 2003 and 2013) – the study shows how one institution can be “an important factor in the economy of the Netherlands”.
Analysis shows that GDP contributed by the museum between 2003 and 2017 will be €3 billion (approximately £2.6 billion), and as a direct result of the transformation, will, as of this year, deliver a substantial amount of capital to the country. The annual economic impact of the museum will increase by €90 million (approximately £77 million).
“It is clear that the investment in the new Rijksmuseum has had major consequences that stretch far beyond the walls of the building itself,” Wim Pijbes, director of the Rijksmuseum, said in his foreword. “These results prove that the age-old wisdom of John Paul Getty still rings true: fine art is the finest investment.”
While contributing directly to GDP is welcome, the impact of the development extends into equally seismic ‘societal’ benefits that may be harder to quantify, but are nevertheless just as important as ‘cash money’.
This happens at a local, national and international level. With local, the museum has raised the bar in terms of the quality of facilities; nationally it has cemented part of the country’s iconic identity as a culturally rich place to be; while internationally it has helped increase not only the prestige of the capital city but the country itself.
“International research suggests major museums such as the Rijksmuseum are a crucial element in the economic and societal wellbeing of a city,” commented Professor Tony Travers, director of LSE London, a research centre at the London School of Economics.
“Experience in London, New York, Paris and elsewhere suggests that cities need significant cultural institutions as part of their offer to the world. Amsterdam, in common with other major European cities, needs to be flexible and able to reinvent itself if it is to continue to attract businesses, tourism and creative talent.”
Cadogan Tate has extensive experience in delivering tailored storage solutions for all types of art.