Tories blast Labour’s woke plan for ‘mandatory diversity quotas’ at art galleries

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The idea that quotas could be used to ensure that work by artists from a diverse range of backgrounds is on display at institutions such as the National Gallery and the Tate Galleries was denounced as “preposterous”. Concern was triggered after Labour MP Janet Daby, a former shadow minister for faiths, women and equalities, asked Mr Dowden what assessment had been made of the “potential merits of issuing mandatory diversity quotas for artists whose art is displayed by galleries which receive funding from his department”.

A source close to culture secretary Oliver Dowden said:  “Galleries should display great art, regardless of who produced it. This is yet more woke nonsense from a Labour party that’s deeply out of touch with the public on culture.”

Sir John Hayes, a former security minister who chairs the Common Sense group of Conservative MPs, was alarmed by the suggestion and concerned that such quotas could be used to regulate other forms of art.

He said: “Mandatory quotas would mean every artistic endeavour and every audience had to be checked to see if they met these targets. Rather than being engaged by excellence, by the sublime, they’d be gauged by some statistic, some list, some characteristic that has nothing to do with art or music, with paintings or drama.

“This is just not what our free society and a vibrant culture is about… Just how far do the Wokes want to take this?

“It is a preposterous idea to measure creativity and the enjoyment of the work of artists on the basis of diktats and quotas.”

A Government analysis found that in the 2018 to 2019 period 51.1 percent of white people had visited a museum or gallery, but only 43.7 percent of Asian people and 33.5 percent of Black people.

Culture minister Caroline Dinenage stressed that Arts Council England (ACE) already worked to ensure there is “diversity in audiences, leaders, producers and creators of arts and culture”.

She said: “The Government is clear that it expects the cultural sectors to represent our diverse society in their artistic talent, workforce and audiences.”

ACE states on its website that organisations seeking regular support will be asked to “agree on actions and targets to diversify their governance, leadership, workforce, programming and audiences as part of their funding agreements with us”. From spring 2023, there will be “sanctions” for organisations that “fail to make sufficient progress”.

Ms Dinenage said that resources were also available to help organisations address barriers faced by “disabled people and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds”

In 2018, the Government Art Collection started a 10-year programme to assess its representation of “age, disability, gender, race, sexuality, and socio-economic [background]”. Its website states it is working with the Decolonising the Arts Institute as well “identifying historic prejudices in the way that artworks and subjects have been catalogued”.

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