Are you an AMA member? Please log in

Six Pressure Points in the Arts

John Knell Master Photo010 John Knell is one of the UK’s leading thinkers on the changing face of work and organisations, and in recent years has become an authority on cultural and creative industries policy. In this guest blog post he looks at key pressure points facing arts marketers.

1.      Developing an adequately long term view

The arts are being affected by the huge sweeping changes impacting on modern life – around globalisation, sustainability, technology, an ageing population and shifting identity to name a few.

These require long term responses – the expert input of artists, and rigorous thinking.

2.      A rigorous approach to evidence and case making

Neither intrinsic nor instrumental rationales have spurned a robust and rigorous research and evidence base that could better underpin the allocation of resources to the sector.

Unless we build a powerful empirical account of the wider impact of the arts – the place of the arts at the negotiating table for public funds is weaker than it needs to be.

Let the strongest lead here – in terms of the larger publicly funded organisations being given sector lead responsibilities to help build the evidence case / evaluation perspectives across the sector.

3.      Supercharging the mixed economy

The arts have long embraced the mixed economy – but now more than ever artists need to respond strategically to these opportunities.

What does this mean in practice?

It means rejecting those in the arts who act as if they don’t have a responsibility – if running a publicly funded organisation – to help artists and their organisations to exploit new opportunities for content creation, distribution and commercial exploitation.

And it requires our cultural leaders to embrace the enormous and influential role of the arts in civic and public life – an equally important part of the arts mixed economy.

4. Investing in R&D

The arts are going to have to increase their rate of innovation, which can take many forms: practice, content, delivery, presentation, and promotion.

Unfortunately, decisions about how best to balance the need to support the existing cultural infrastructure against the need for new R&D investment in new technology, or new forms of innovation in artistic practice, are rarely informed by rigorous cost benefit analysis, or the guiding voice of emerging trends, artistic, public or otherwise.

For now at least – the arts are starved of any such strategic approach across the cultural landscape – but we can’t allow them to be in the future.

5.      It’s the whole ecology stupid 

A vital ingredient of future success is how to create a strong, sustainable, networked, collaborate arts and creative ecology that can successfully deliver a wider range of desired outcomes.

This means prioritising the health of the whole arts and cultural ecology, not the maintenance or survival of particular bits of the system. And it requires a focus on systemic outcomes – not narrow institutional ones.

6.      The rise and rise of strategic partnership

Even before the downturn in the public finances, it was becoming clear to many in the arts that we need to strengthen the connections between arts organisations, between the arts and Local Authorities, and to encourage the arts to connect to a whole raft of strategic commissioning partners across the broader public realm.

Despite the collegiate rhetoric of the arts, too often the funding system has turned the language of collaboration into the reality of fierce competition. However, the arts are not going to continue to thrive unless they genuinely become more strategic partners, connecting the arts to the mainstream of public life and service delivery.

John Knell, consultant, writer and speaker:

Tate Debate

148315_10150106291898993_20134383992_7225397_7021313_nHi folks,

… for next week's Tate Debate – we want a topic from YOU!

If you've got that burning QUESTION, itching to be debated by the loyal Tate fanbase…then post it now, and be next week's Tate Debate host.

Have a good evening everyone 🙂

And so began our Facebook post last Thursday where we asked our fans what they wanted to discuss at the next online Tate Debate. Suggestions included:

‘Community Arts Programs – Who really benefits?'
‘What happened to postmodernism?’,
‘Are Nudes only an excuse to legitimise sex?’
and, ‘can my art go into your gallery’

Some good ideas, and a few crazies thrown in for good measure.

Crowdsourcing is increasingly popular and is very easy to do online. Our Saturday nights are filled with tv programmes where the audience is increasingly in control, keeping in the Widdecombes and Sargeants against the experts' better judgement. At Tate Britain, our team of teenagers in Tate Forum curate their own events throughout the year and help remind employees what today’s young people are interested in and what they are not.

It’s something we do a great deal online and with our youth audiences, but the main programme is still programmed by industry experts. The winner of the Turner Prize each year is selected by a panel including Tate staff and international curators. Would it stop being Europe’s most prestigious art prize if the winner was chosen by the public sending in their text votes? Would we see Rolf Harris and Claude Monet on show at Tate Modern all year round if we asked the public what they really wanted to see?

In 2012, Stratford East is throwing it’s programming open to the local community and are asking anyone and everyone for suggestions.

Personally I think this is an inspired decision but, when does crowdsourcing take populist inclusion too far? My least favourite bit of The Guardian is 'Comment is Free'. I couldn’t be less interested in what Aeschyluss48 and TimmyTinFoilHat think – give me Lucy Mangan and Nigel Slater anyday.

Is crowdsourcing  a case of truly democratising access to art, or a case of the lunatics taking over the asylum?


Which reminds me, who do I have to DM to get Terry Hall to curate Meltdown next year? Not such a bad idea, eh?

Claire Eva, Head of Marketing, Tate

Change of details?

If you would like to change your contact details or organisation please get in contact with us.