The future of Caruso St John’s seminal New Art Gallery Walsall is in doubt just a fortnight after the practice’s Newport Street Gallery won the Stirling Prize
Walsall Council has said it needs to cut £86 million from its costs over the rest of this decade – and that the acclaimed gallery which was shortlisted for the Stirling Prize in 2000 is one possible source of savings.
A petition to save the gallery has already been launched, with its founder claiming the closure would be ‘both unethical and impractical’ and would ‘destroy the atmosphere of many surrounding communities’.
The local authority gives £470,000 a year to the gallery as well as subsidising the ’central and property costs’ - taking its total annual financial commitment to about £900,000.
Caruso St John’s website hails the council-backed art gallery ‘as a model of quality and good practice, which could act as a central figure within the town, around which future regeneration of a former industrial wharf area to the east of the town centre could evolve’.
But a statement from the local authority said today: ‘Continued austerity will mean this authority and many other councils have to reduce what they do, at a time when we are seeing a greater demand for social care services from our ageing, frail population, increasing demands on children’s services and reductions in NHS spending.
‘The council fully appreciates that the art gallery is much-loved by those who use it. However, like many councils across the country, this authority can’t ignore the fact that savings have to be made.
‘This is why we will be consulting with our public on all the budget options for the gallery. No final decision has been made, nor will be made until we have listened to our residents, service users and partners alike to find the best available option.’
The council will make final decisions on its spending in February.
Caruso St John won this year’s RIBA Stirling Prize, at the third attempt, with its Newport Street Gallery in Vauxhall, London.
Sad news that Walsall Art Gallery facing closure due to pressure on local government budgets: https://t.co/YWiSBkybkT— Vincent Lacovara (@VincentLacovara) October 19, 2016
after Caruso StJohn's gallery for Damien Hirst won Stirling Prize their (far superior) Walsall Gallery faces closure https://t.co/nDflR5P1GE— Owen Hatherley (@owenhatherley) October 19, 2016
Walsall Art Gallery - budget cuts threaten to close it. Another step on the decent into philistinism https://t.co/YRmDO3AwHn— Stiff + Trevillion (@StiffTrevillion) October 20, 2016