08 August 2021

Government defends spending on new art for Downing Street

08 August 2021

Boris Johnson has come under fire after it emerged nearly £100,000 was spent on two works of art to be displayed on the walls of 10 Downing Street.

The accounts of the Government’s Art Collection fund show £70,200 was spent on a painting by Belfast artist Cathy Wilkes, the Daily Mirror reported.

A further £18,775 was spent on a set of works by photographer and installation artist Willie Doherty.

The works were paid for through the Government Art Collection fund, which is largely made up of contributions from donors but is supplemented by taxpayer cash.

The spending drew criticism from the Tories’ opponents, who branded the works an unnecessary luxury when the Government is facing tough decisions on spending cuts and tax hikes.

Labour MP Neil Coyle tweeted: “As his Government cuts Universal Credit and freezes frontline nurse/police pay, Johnson has found more money to treat himself. Again.

“He could not be more out of touch.”

Labour MP for South Shields Emma Lewell-Buck told the Mirror: “The selfishness of this Prime Minister is galling.

“When shelves are bare in my local food banks, businesses have gone to the wall, public sector and key workers have suffered pay freezes and cuts, his priority is once again himself.”

A Government spokeswoman defended the spending, saying: “The Government Art Collection helps to promote the creativity of British art and culture by showcasing its works in the UK and across the globe.

“It acquires new works after consulting and securing the approval of an independent expert panel, and the majority of funding for acquisitions comes from philanthropic sources – not taxpayers’ money.

“The Government Art Collection is committed to public engagement and lends extensively to public exhibitions and collaborates with public facing national events and through its digital platforms.”

It is understood the two works were purchased to mark the centenary of the foundation of Northern Ireland.

Former culture secretary Ed Vaizey, now a Tory peer, also supported the purchases, saying: “Govt art collection has supported British artists for 120 years – a unique cultural asset for our country.”

He added: “(Boris Johnson) would have had no involvement in acquisition, which wld have come from existing budget.”

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