SCOTLAND's hallowed visual art scene is being put "at risk" by the coronavirus pandemic with seven in ten organisations saying it has meant or likely to mean the cancellation of programmes and projects.

The alarm bells have begun ringing for the sector which produced the 2018 Turner Prize winner Charlotte Prodger, as a result of a "sobering" lockdown survey of over 100 individuals and organisations carried out in April by Scottish Contemporary Art Network (SCAN) highlighting the impact on visual arts across the country - from galleries, studios, art centres and associated festivals to artists, sculptors and photographers.

The organisation which supports renowned artists and critically acclaimed exhibitions and festivals as well as organising hands-on workshops reveals that nearly a third of respondents expected a 100% loss of income in April.

And over a third of art venues and production facilities had already lost more than half their income and told of potential job cuts.

And the survey of 108 people including 27 on behalf of organisations, reveals that 56% believe that said that the cancellation will lead to a "lower positive impact" on the public.


The Travelling Gallery: Colin Hattersley

Scotland's contemporary visual arts sector has already come under pressure from cuts in local authority funding and the constant, tightening squeeze on state arts funding.

SCAN, the visual art major representative body, last year launched a new campaign, Art in Action, to “sharpen the minds” of every MSP in the Scottish Parliament about the issues facing visual artists across the country, as well as celebrate their ongoing contribution to wider society.

It urged every MSP to engage with at least one aspect of visual art – a gallery, a show, an artist in their constituency, an education project, a painting, sculpture, or other work of art – and share their experience on social media.

A SCAN spokesman said: "Arts organisations across Scotland are continuing to work in communities across the country with innovative online programmes, festivals and education initiatives. But the loss of tickets sales, the cancellation of classes and workshops and the cessation of venue hire and catering that underpin many galleries mean that Scotland’s visual art sector is fearful for its long-term future."

It a blow to the visual arts sector which in the last 30 years has delivered success in the Turner Prize, the art world's equivalent of the literary award, the Booker Prize or popular music's Mercury Prize.

Eight winners of the Turner Prize since 1996 have been trained or from Scotland, and a further sixteen had been nominated.


Artists such as Douglas Gordon, Karla Black, Nathan Coley, Martin Boyce, Martin Creed, Christine Borland, Jacqueline Donachie, Richard Wright, Susan Philipsz, and Duncan Campbell, among many others - often, but not always, connected to Glasgow School of Art - have been part of the generation of artists who have made Scotland, and Glasgow, a key site for the creation of cutting-edge art.

Executives of the much-loved creative venue, Dundee Contemporary Arts, Dundee’s much-loved creative venue which includes a cinema, cafe/bar, print studio and gallery, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year expressed their concerns.

Beth Bate, director of DCA, said: "Institutions like ours play a key role in our society: as employers; as a place for audiences to access a broad and vibrant range of creative experiences; as a source of sustained and sustaining community engagement; as a vital platform for artists at all stages of their careers through exhibiting in the galleries, participating in our public programmes or working in our production facilities; and as a key part of the tourism economy. The risks the sector faces will affect all elements of our work and must be mitigated in the coming weeks and months.


DCA Print Studio

"DCA is in a relatively fortunate position thanks to our track record of financially responsible management and the concerted effort we’ve put into diversifying our income. But despite those efforts, the current situation leaves us exposed to enormous risk in the medium to long term."

The analysis covering of the visual art community in Scotland, found that during April more than a quarter (28%) of individuals who responded were not working at all, because they were self-employed and had no work coming in.

SCAN director Clare Harris said: "We know that the visual arts infrastructure was already very fragile before Covid-19 hit, due to diminishing levels of investment at both local and national level.


"Much of Scotland’s visual art activity is free to the public, supported by income generated through classes, cafes and hires, for example. The coronavirus pandemic has hit all of these income streams hard. We welcome the emergency support that has been made available, including Creative Scotland's Bridging Bursaries and schemes from both the UK and Scottish Government. But our survey confirms just how uncertain the future is as we look ahead to the longer-term economic impacts of the outbreak.

"As governments across the UK begin to roll out lockdown exit-planning, we need to work hard for a recovery that will enable the visual art community to get back on its feet and continue to produce work that has a far-reaching benefit for our society."

She added: "Recently the Scottish Government put £34m into a Newly Self Employed Hardship Fund; this was hugely welcome as one way to safeguard those who weren’t covered by the UK scheme. We also welcomed earlier moves by Creative Scotland to put in place its £2m Bridging Bursary fund, which was bolstered by an extra £1m from the Scottish Government and £1m from a private foundation in mid-April.

"Our concern now is in identifying those who are still struggling, and why. Interestingly, when asked what other forms of support they need, one in ten of our survey respondents mentioned a Universal Basic Income. They are also concerned that beyond the immediate needs, there is a long-term puzzle to solve around rebuilding what were already precarious livelihoods. One said: ‘My greatest concern is not short-term loss of earnings but the availability of work and arts funding in the economic crisis that is to come'."

In Glasgow, the popular visitor attraction, the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) has moved many of its regular activities online.

Museum Manager Gareth James says that the impact of Covid-19 means the institution must rethink the sort of audiences it can reach.


Domestic Bliss exhibition at GoMA 

"We will see a significant drop in income from donations, from the shop and café. The tourist market will be dramatically reduced, because people just can’t get to us. We still don’t know whether we will have visitors who’ve come into the city to do their work or shopping. As we await further guidelines, we’re thinking about how our audience will change.

"GoMA has always been hugely popular with the visiting public and we're sure that will be that case in the future. But at the moment we just don't know when we'll be able to safely welcome visitors back in. One thing we do know is that contemporary art practice is endlessly inventive, and that gives us hope."

A survey by SCAN three years ago, for Creative Scotland's Visual Arts Review, found that the average total income of respondents was £17,526. This dropped to just under £15,000 for those who were self-employed, who were mainly artists. South of the border, last year, a report by the Arts Council of England found that two thirds of artists earned less than £5000 in the previous year from their art: only 7% earned more than £20,000.

It was notable then when Ms Prodger won the £25,000 Turner Prize in December, she noted what she might do with the prize money.

She said: “I’ll live on it. I’ll pay my rent and my studio rent and some bills."