Charlotte Higgins reports in The Guardian that the ICA has warned staff it could be the first major British cultural organisation to fall victim to the recession. Staff members have been told that a financial deficit currently at around £600,000 might rise to £1.2m and if radical steps are not taken the ICA could be closed by May.
Minutes of a sometimes bad-tempered staff meeting held last month have been seen by the Guardian. The meeting was also attended by Alan Yentob, the BBC creative director, and Tessa Ross, Channel 4’s head of film and drama, both of whom sit on the ICA’s council.
The meeting saw ICA director Ekow Eshun explain that a staff bill of £2.5m will have to be reduced by £1m for the organisation to survive. Without a wholesale restructuring, he argued, the ICA could be the first major British cultural organisation to fall victim to the recession.
The ICA’s management is now consulting on staff redundancies, with the process due to be completed by the end of March.
The financial problems emerged, Eshun told the Guardian yesterday, as a result of “a perfect storm of events that all came together”.
A fundraising auction of works donated by artists including Damien Hirst in October 2008 failed to raise its estimated £1.3m, instead realising about £673,300.
Over the 2008-9 financial year, the ICA raised only £200,000, or half the projected revenue, from hiring out its premises on The Mall in London for commercial use, a problem put down to the recession.
Eshun said that other traditional streams of income, such as the bookshop and the ICA film distribution arm, also suffered because of the recession.
The ICA has been granted a package of £1.2m over two years by Arts Council England’s (ACE) Sustain fund, which is designed to help arts organisations hit by the recession. The total turnover of the ICA is £4.5m, and it receives an annual ACE grant of £1.3m.
But Eshun said the problems at the ICA ran deeper than the current financial climate, and in May last year, even before the scale of the immediate financial problems had emerged, a consultancy firm was commissioned to report on structural problems within the organisation.