Artists Cultural policy News Denmark

Danish lawmakers want to play the naming game

The country's former culture minister wants to disclose the names of all artists who have applied for government grants, including those whose proposals were rejected

Who are you? If you're an artist in Denmark who has applied for a government grant, former culture minister Uffe Elbaek wants to know your name

Danish lawmakers not only want to disclose the names of artists who were successful in seeking government grants, but also those who failed to convince the relevant committees that their projects were worth funding. “We want to create as much transparency as possible,” says the Uffe Elbaek, the country's former culture minister and member of the Radikale Venstre (The Danish Social-Liberal Party). He hopes that making this information public will quash the misconception that cronyism plays a part in the grant-making process. While Elbaek stepped down as culture minister on 5 December, supporters of his plan still want to introduce the new regulation.

Elbaek stresses that although people already have the right to request the names of applicants, the process is complicated. He wants the names to be made public automatically. Artists fear the stigma associated with a failed application and are concerned that it will be difficult to secure funds elsewhere if their project is perceived as not worth public money. The way subsidies in the cultural sector have been spent has been up for debate in Denmark in recent years. In particular, the right-wing populist party has criticised the way in which politicians have supported the arts.

What Danish art-world insiders have to say

Rune Gade, chairman, Danish Arts Council: “Openness is good, but one has to ask in regards to what? The art projects we support are open and publicly accessible as exhibitions, performances, catalogues, etc. Also, all financial support is disclosed at www.kunst.dk. Therefore, we already have openness. Asking for openness in regards to projects that don't receive grants will mean disclosing a hidden political distrust in that institution—an institution that is supposed to work at an arm's length distance [to ensure that it] executes its task in a correct manner. It would result in a deeply problematic stigma for artists and projects that do not receive funding. It also may prevent people from applying.”

Mette Winckelmann, artist: “Unfortunately this reflects the low status of artists in Denmark. It would be like making public all applicants for a position at an art institution. For example, if those who applied for the directorship of the Kunsthal Charlottenborg had been named publicly, fewer experienced people would have applied. It is important not to compromise on professionalism for the sake of transparency.”

Peter Amby, gallery owner, Copenhagen: ”The concept has a degree of [the reality television show] 'Paradise Hotel' in it as it is suddenly transparent as to who was 'voted out' or rejected. I see two main issues: first, I think it should be a strictly private matter as to whether an artist got support, and second, there is the risk that rejection will haunt the artist; other organisations might be reluctant to support an artist if they find out that they have been rejected by the arts council.”

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