On June 27, The Treasure House Fair opened to a fanfare and appearances by celebrities and well-known collectors and philanthropists.  Whilst in its infancy, the fair’s predecessors include Masterpiece and Grosvenor House, and these June dates are critical to the success of the London art market attracting both domestic and international collectors, although far fewer international dealers, thanks to Brexit - writes Charlotte Heath-Bullock.

One thing is for certain, no politician will set foot inside the fair, and that is not only because the pre-election hustings are taking hold.  

Despite the cream of the British art market being present and scores of political donors perusing the stands of cultural masterpieces, British politicians seem to be resolute in their rejection of high culture and our political leaders rarely show their cultural tastes publicly, I believe, to the detriment of our national life.  This is in contrast to our European neighbours where German, French and Italian politicians fully embrace culture and the arts.  

Take Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron for example.  When Paris + par Art Basel debuted in 2022, President Macron attended along with his wife and the French Minister for Culture, citing the reinvention of a true international contemporary art fair in Paris.  The result, Paris + attracted 40,000 visitors in its inaugural year and extended beyond the event itself to incorporate publicly accessible works throughout the city.  Brigitte Macron has also attended FIAC and the Paris Art Fair along with the Musée des Arts Décoratifs further cementing the French leadership’s recognition of the value brought by the art world. “Paris is Booming” hit the headlines.  

In Germany, Angela Merkel was well known for her love of opera and regularly attended the famous Wagner festival at Bayreuth as guest of honour.  She wasn’t alone and several of her ministers were also in regular attendance.  Whilst over in Italy, Giorgia Meloni joined other political and cultural figures at Verona’s ancient amphitheatre as it was recognised by UNESCO as a global cultural treasure, enjoying a performance conducted by the great Riccardo Muti featuring 170 musicians from the country’s 14 opera houses and 314 choral singers who performed works by Italy’s great composers from Verdi to Puccini.

Back in Britain, George Osborne was lambasted for attending performances of Wagner’s Ring at the Royal Opera House whilst Chancellor of the Exchequer.  According to a 2012 Daily Telegraph article*, there were routinely paparazzi outside waiting to catch any politician who turned up.  How depressing that our political leaders are forced to be ashamed of the arts, particularly given how good we are at them and the importance of culture as a soft power for the international political stage.

In light of the devastating cuts to arts funding, we need more than ever to attract new philanthropists and business figures to support our arts.  

No fewer than 13 culture ministers have passed through the revolving door of Westminster since 2010, so it is little wonder that the UK lacks a coherent and impactful cultural strategy.  

In this time, arts funding has decreased and corporate budgets have stagnated, and can no longer be the ‘silver bullet’ that supports cultural organisations as significantly as we saw when founding the business in order to connect audiences with culture. I fear it is hard to see what will happen, even with a change in government.

It would be a start if politicians could wake up to the benefits of our rich cultural organisations and at least show their support by turning up.  

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