Art projects seek help

Artistic values are giving way to hard-nosed financial acumen in the arts world as organisations seek to recruit more accountants to keep tight reigns on new funding in the sector.

The boom in recruitment of finance staff in the arts has been prompted by new legislation and the revised statement of recommended practice for charities. Additionally, arts organisations are being forced to find income from alternative sources to the government, so are placing increasing demands on their finance departments.

Better funding of the arts has enabled British artists such as Mark Wallinger to shine. Ecce Homo, a contemporary life-size figure of Christ by Wallinger, was installed last week on the empty plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square under a Royal Society of Arts initiative.

‘Increasingly, the arts seems to be an area of change and has therefore become more attractive to candidates from other areas of the profession.

People have always wanted to be associated with it and, as accountants, this is one way to get involved,’ said Stephen Hockey, director of public sector recruitment at Michael Page Finance.

Among those bodies which have sought to recruit accountancy professionals are the Arts Council of England, the Tate Gallery, the Sadler’s Wells theatre and the British Library.

‘We seem to be getting a steady stream of requests for people in this area. Legislation means they are having to tighten up in these areas and invest money. Finance did not have the same level of dedication as putting money into the talented artists,’ Hockey said.

The arts sector has historically failed to attach much importance to finance. Consequently bodies have fallen into difficulties. For example, the Royal Opera House was warned last year by the government to improve its financial management. A National Audit Office report on the Arts Council was also scathing.

‘You need a joint management team. You need financial and creative expertise,’ said Baker Tilley chairman Clive Parritt. ‘There has been a tendency in arts organisations to rely too heavily on the creative side. There is a need to redress that balance.’

As well as government initiatives, the National Lottery has boosted arts funding.

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