In opposition to the rulings that respect cultural diversity, the funds for the Promotion of Contemporary Spanish Art offered by the ministry in 2014 excluded artists, collectives, cultural associations and foundations, and instead recognized art galleries as the sole beneficiary.
This year the Ministry for Education, Culture and Sport released the Grants for the Promotion of Contemporary Spanish Art, but unlike previous occasions when they were directed towards artists, artists’ collectives, cultural associations, critics and curators, foundations and other people reliant on public funds, the MECD grants this year are directed exclusively to helping galleries access art fairs. Cultural agents, in the eyes of the current government have been reduced to one: galleries. Galleries are businesses, private enterprises (art shops), and not collective entities or organizations with public benefit.
A common fallacy is that financing galleries is helping support artists and art. But this is not true. First of all, galleries only represent certain artists (not all artists have a gallery). Second, gallery owners only promote one or two of their artists (the others, despite having a gallery, cannot make a living from their work). And third, it is not always the case that it is advantageous for an artist to have a gallery. Galleries, in their role as intermediaries, cause prices to increase; if they are not capable of doing this proportionally with the existing demand, the artists lose money since they only receive half of what they would get if they were to sell their work without the involvement of this intermediary. This is a fallacy that I discovered and confirmed, over the course of my conversations with representatives of mainly public institutions (The Ministry of Culture, museums, art centers…) during the five years that I held an active role as president of the MOSIS Foundation, when I continually insisted on the necessity for a profound change in the cultural policies in Spain in this regard.
Although my role is not to lay out cultural policy, the fact that I represented a foundation under the provisions of the Ministry of Culture (fundacionmosis.com) enabled me to speak with those who did have the power to change policies. However, this all happened before the change in government in Spain in 2011, and before the Ministry of Culture as such disappeared. I recall that in 2010 we had a meeting at the Ministry of Culture with Begoña Torres, who was at that time deputy director of the Department for the Promotion of Fine Arts, in which we set forth the reasons why channeling public funds into art galleries and art fairs is not helping support art. There is a fundamental misunderstanding that by simply opening their doors to the public, galleries are therefore of some public benefit. Galleries are art shops, and as such just like boutiques and supermarkets are open to the public, but that does not make them of benefit to the public. Gallery owners not only belong to the business sector of art but also the most conservative sector, whose main mission is not to open a new vision of art, but simply to sell it.
In 2009 we carried out an economic study of the current situation in the art world (which received a Cultural Industries Grant from the Ministry of Culture in the same year). As an economist, Sergio Tombesi (who also attended the meeting), right from the title of his text Does art generate or move money? indirectly differentiates between the direct agent, who creates and generates, and the indirect agent, who moves money. The study makes clear that the only ones who generate money are the artists, and the only ones who make money are the intermediaries. Money in the art world gets stuck in the galleries, art fairs and agents of the secondary market, auction houses, and never gets through to the primary agents – the generators, the artists. From this particular perspective, he responds to the question of why other markets function while the art market does not, concluding that the problem arises due to the importance and excessive presence which the intermediaries and the secondary market have in the art market .
In 2010 there was an internal battle within the Ministry of Culture between financing art fairs and galleries or financing artists’ collectives and associations. The 2010 ruling (which all grant program guidelines must comply with) speaks of the “great diversity of ways in which cultural activity manifests itself and to which the resources of the subsidies are directed.” However, the 2014 grant program guidelines direct all support exclusively towards art galleries. The 2014 guidelines seem to blatantly flout the basic principles of the ruling: Act CUL/2912/2010, November 10, in which the fundamental principles, concerning the concession of public subsidies on a competitive basis by the Ministry of Culture and its public bodies, are established.
The Act states:
“III. OTHER PROVISIONS – MINISTRY OF CULTURE
Act CUL/2912/2010, November 10, in which the fundamental principles, concerning the concession of public subsidies on a competitive basis by the Ministry of Culture and its public bodies, are established.
Since its creation in the year 2004, the Ministry of Culture has been structured as the department of General State Administration, in charge of proposals and implementation of government guidelines on cultural policy.
One of the mechanisms on which cultural policy hinges is that of public subsidies. In the case of cultural subsidies, the importance, from a quantitative perspective, lies in the relative impact of the spending on subsidies on the budgetary allocations of the Ministry and, on the other hand, the ever increasing influence of the cultural economic activity to which the subsidies are directed. On the other hand, from a qualitative perspective, the great diversity of ways in which cultural activity manifests itself and to which the resources of the subsidies are directed, is a distinguishing fact.
In contrast to this act we see the:
“Grant program guidelines 2014 – objective and purpose
Grant program guidelines 2014
Published in: BOE no. 101, April 26 2014, pages 33052 to 33078 (27 pages)
First. Objective and purpose
1. The General Department for Fine Arts and Cultural Assets and Archives and Libraries, in accordance with article 3.2 of the Act CUL/2912/2010, in which the fundamental principles, concerning the concession of public subsidies on a competitive basis by the Ministry of Culture (currently the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport) and its public bodies, are established, announces grants destined for the promotion of contemporary Spanish art for the period between 1 January and 31 December 2014 by supporting art galleries located in Spanish territories to attend art fairs abroad, with the objective of encouraging creation and the dissemination of the visual contemporary arts, as well as the development of a more dynamic and innovate context for these forms of expression across our country; through internationalization.
There is a clear inconsistency of content when this first paragraph is compared with the second paragraph, which states the objective, according to the constitution, is preserving shared cultural heritage.
The present announcement of grants is carried out under the provisions of article 149.2 of the Spanish Constitution, without prejudice to the jurisdiction assumed by the different Autonomous Communities and Cities with a statute of autonomy as regards culture. The centralized and direct management of these subsidies is based, as has been established by consolidated jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court, on the responsibility assumed by the State to preserve common cultural heritage, and on the need to ensure equal opportunities of procurement and enjoyment for the potential recipients across the country. Likewise, the targeting of these grants towards artistic activities carried out on an international level, also justifies the centralization of their management.
In this third paragraph the whole task of preserving shared cultural heritage is reduced to being allocated solely to those galleries attending fairs.
2. The criteria for application for the grants forming part of the present program guidelines is participation as an art gallery based in Spanish territory, in any of the following international fairs, with the objective of promoting Spanish artists, or those resident in Spain: Art Basel; Art Basel Hong Kong; Art Basel Miami; Art Beijing Contemporary Art Fair; Art Brussels; Art BO; Art Cologne; Art Dubai; Art Karlsrurhe; Art 14 London; Art L. Ángeles Contemporary; Art Miami; Affordable Art Fair Brussels; Affordable Art Fair Battersea; Affordable Art Fair Hampstead; Affordable Art Fair Milano; Affordable Art Fair New York; Affordable Art Fair Ciudad de México; Affordable Art Fair Hong Kong; Affordable Art Fair Singapore; Affordable Art Fair Hämburg; Affordable Art Fair Maastricht; ArteBA; Artissima; Ch.ACO Chile Arte Contemporáneo; C L Contemporary Istanbul; Context Art Miami; Cutlog Paris; Cutlog New York; Expo Chicago; FIAC; Fotofever Photography Brussels; Fotofever Photography París; Frieze Art Fair London; Frieze Art Fair New York; Frieze Master; India Art Fair; London Art Fair Solo Project; Miami Project; NADA New York; NADA Cologne; PARC Lima; Paris Photo; Paris Photo Los Ángeles; Pinta London; Pinta New York; Pulse Miami; Pulse New York; Sp Sao Paulo; The Armory Show New York; The Solo Project Art Fair Basel; Volta Basel; Volta New York; Zona Maco.”
The announcement of 2014 contrasts with those of previous years in that the grants are destined for those agents in the contemporary Spanish art sector “with the objective of encouraging creation and the dissemination of the visual contemporary arts, as well as the development of a more dynamic and innovate context for these forms of expression across our country.”
And in 2: The following are eligible to apply for the subsidies announced under the present program guidelines:
a) Art galleries based in Spanish territory: Spanish artists, or those resident in Spain.
b) Spanish (or Spanish resident) visual artists: the production of works of art and the development of artistic projects.
c) Critics, artistic curators and other Spanish (or Spanish resident) professionals: development and organization of cultural projects.
JANA LEO DE BLAS
MOSIS Foundation, President and Founding Director
Letter sent to the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Education May 2014
 Please find Jana Leo y Sergio Tombesi, Sauna (year 2, numbers 14 y 15, with the title: El auge del mercado secundario y la caída del arte). The first of two parts of a look at the economic workings of the art world in Spain. MOSIS Foundation, Modelos y Sistemas. Arte y Ciudad. Available at: