Arts Council tightens belt after budget cut

The justice minister (poster) was unwillingly dragged into the centre of the controversial exhibition Keystone

The Swiss Arts Council has announced how it will save the SFr1 million ($830,000) cut from its budget by parliament following a row over artistic freedom.

This content was published on April 8, 2005 - 17:31

Half will come at the cost of financing projects and promotion, and the other half by cutting operating expenses. However, Pro Helvetia said it would continue to defend artistic freedom.

Speaking in Zurich on Friday, the director of Pro Helvetia, Pius Knüsel, said the organisation would not "lose heart" in its efforts to support artistic freedom and emphasised that current policy on awarding arts grants would be maintained.

The announcement comes in response to parliament’s decision last December to cut SFr1 million from the Arts Council’s SFr34 million annual budget, punishing it for funding a controversial exhibition in Paris.

Entitled "Swiss-Swiss Democracy", the exhibition by Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn contained an attack on the justice minister, Christoph Blocher, who is also the figurehead of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party.

Provocative

One of the more provocative elements was a theatre piece during which an actor lifted his leg and pretended to urinate on a poster of Blocher.

Knüsel said the budget cut forced the Arts Council to put all of this year’s projects on hold for the time being. But he added that he would strive to ensure that the fine would not be a "collective punishment" for Swiss artists.

He said parliament’s decision should be taken as a warning that cultural institutions were in the firing line.

Pro Helvetia will save SFr500,000 by foregoing investments in infrastructure and information technology, and a further half a million by postponing new projects.

This year, the Arts Council says it will focus on promoting dance productions and young playwrights, and for the first time will provide grants to advance Switzerland’s jazz scene.

The row over the Hirschhorn exhibition and the latest cuts follow the acceptance of an initial cost-reduction programme last year, which foresaw a five per cent cut in staff and administration costs to be implemented by the end of 2006.

The earlier measures will result in the loss of ten jobs, or some 14 per cent of the total staff budget, by July 2005.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Parliament cut SFr1 million of Pro Helvetia's SFr34 million budget for this year to punish the Arts Council for funding a controversial exhibition in Paris.

The exhibition, Swiss-Swiss Democracy, included a provocative attack on the justice minister, Christoph Blocher.

The show, which ended in December, drew 30,000 visitors - three times as many as the previous exhibitions at the Swiss Cultural Centre.

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