30 NADFAS REVIEW / AUTUMN 2010
www.nadfas.org.ukNADFAS REVIEW / AUTUMN201031Left:Stephenlaunched theStaffordshireHoard appealwith historianDavid StarkeyBelow: One of the Hoard artefactsis adorned withBiblical textSTEPHEN DEUCHARHe also worries about thosemuseums' long-term future, pointing towhat he sees as the threat to localcuratorial excellence. "What you need toacquire objects is two things - moneyand expertise. One without the other isnot enough to make an acquisition."In light of the troubles experienced bysuch museums, he says, the value ofcharities such as NADFAS, with itsenergetic culture of volunteering, cannotbe overstated. Referring to his time atthe National Maritime Museum, wherehe was Curator of Paintings, and at TateBritain, he says: "I have been involved intwo national museums one after theother, so for the past 25 years NADFAShas always been there in thebackground of my professional life. Fromthe volunteers I met in my first week inthe print room of the NMM, where myoffice was situated, through to thesupport they offer in the nationalmuseums sector as a whole and thepresence they have in regional galleries,their purpose, value and effectiveness issomething I have been impressed byover the years."Of course, NADFAS and the Art Fundjoined forces in 2008 when the latterpurchased Royal Worcester PorcelainFactory pattern books for the WorcesterPorcelain Museum to mark NADFAS's40th anniversary, and Deuchar says hewould welcome future cooperations."Clearly, because there is an overlap inour membership and a certain amountof overlap in our activities, it is importantthat we stay in close dialogue. We arecomplementary, rather than competing,institutions and I look forward todeveloping closer relations and exploringareas of collaboration that may emergein years to come." government and are constantly checkingthat its rhetoric in favour of continuedfree admissions [to national museums]can be delivered in practice." That is not to say he doesn't acceptthe necessity of cuts in the arts duringsuch economically straitened times. Buthe urges that targeting the arts in ahurried manner could do more damagethan good. "I don't believe there shouldbe any special pleading. If the healthservice has to be cut then, of course, thearts sector must take its cuts too. But ifyou make the kind of cutbacks capableof disabling arts institutions, as, forexample, 30% levels undoubtedly would[the government recently asked all majorarts funding bodies to demonstrate howthey would manage cuts of 25% or30%], then you have achieved nosignificant fiscal gain in terms of thecountry's finances as a whole, and in theprocess have destroyed one of thecountry's greatest assets."Deuchar is acutely aware that asvaluable and unique an institution as theArt Fund undoubtedly is (the only suchcharity in the world, it has saved over860,000 works of art for UK museumsand galleries since its formation in1903), the irony is that its very existencemeans it continually runs the risk of"letting the government off the hook"."We are involved in about 80% ofmuseum acquisitions above the level of£100,000 and about 65% of UKmuseums have applied for an Art Fundgrant for an acquisition in the last fiveyears. So there is always the dangerthat the government, when it isassessing what it should give to bodiessuch as the NHMF [National HeritageMemorial Fund] to allow for acquisitions,relies on the Art Fund to pick up adisproportionate amount of slack."Instead, he says, the goal must be forArt Fund money to leverage cash fromelsewhere, including public sources - aperfect example being the StaffordshireHoard campaign in which the NHMFcontributed more than one-third of therequired funds on the back of the ArtFund campaign. Much has been made recently of therole of private philanthropy in the arts,with the government hoping that US-style private philanthropy and corporategiving will make up any shortfall fromausterity measures. It is an issue thatthe Art Fund is lobbying hard on."Clearly, we support the government'sstated objective of leveraging privatephilanthropy to go alongside publicfunding for the arts," says Deuchar. "Butit is going to require some attractive taxproposals. There needs to be value in itfor all concerned."One of Deuchar's biggest concerns isfor the future of regional museums andgalleries. Pointing out that it is far easierto persuade government of the worth ofbig national museums than of thecountry's many struggling local ones, hesays: "Take the small local museum thatis funded entirely by a local authoritythat may be comparing the cost ofrunning that museum to the cost ofrunning a community service, andyou've got to say that that museum is vulnerable."