The Contemporary Art Forum calls on the government. Here are the requests sent to Conte

Contemporary Art Forum sends concluding document with list of demands and proposals for the sector to Giuseppe Conte and Dario Franceschini.

The Contemporary Art Forum sent to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Minister of Cultural Heritage Dario Franceschini the final document of the last session of discussions, debates, and comparisons, which lasted almost a month: the document was completed, after the May 30 plenary, by the coordinators of the six thematic tables that formed its backbone and by the Forum board. The document synthesizes the ideas and strategies that resulted from the participation of hundreds of practitioners and experts: artists, directors of institutions, curators, art critics, gallerists, journalists, collectors, lawyers, politicians, administrators, researchers and activists who gave rise to this “call to the arts,” as the special edition of the Forum held entirely online was called.

Created in response to the economic crisis and the severe pressure to which the Covid-19 pandemic has subjected the contemporary art sector, where the lack of government intervention threatens its very continued existence, the document aims to urge the political world to recognize the essential importance of contemporary art and its practitioners. Forum organizers point out that this recognition has not needed special urging in more mature nations, as shown by the prompt and massive interventions sought by the rulers of countries such as Germany or the United States. And again, the document aims to solve contingent problems, while calling for the preparation of new rules and laws to make up for the structural disadvantage of the Italian art system compared to that of other nations. It thus aims to respond to urgency, but with a view to substantial reform of the system in the medium and long term.

There are three types of requests that the Forum is sending to the government: urgent support interventions towards both institutions and visual arts workers whose activities have been dramatically affected by the Covid-19 crisis (overcoming the bureaucratic barriers that make these workers, often temporary, precarious, freelance, as little circumscribed as the subject matter they deal with: this with the intention of working in the coming months to define the criteria for the establishment of a professional system for visual arts workers and recognizing the productive system that contemporary art activates, starting with research galleries); initiating a cultural New Deal with the intervention of private individuals as well, a topic on which the document makes many suggestions, and first and foremost the need for the extension of the Art Bonus to all types of activities and contemporary art organizations (the Art Bonus, introduced in 2014 by Minister Franceschini, which allows a 65 percent tax deduction for disbursements aimed at historic cultural heritage, has recently been extended to the performing arts as well); the request that representatives of the art world be called to sit at the discussion tables needed to develop the structural reforms the country needs in order to think about its next revival, also in view of obtaining the European Recovery Fund.

Going into detail, the document first launches some short-term proposals and requests (i.e., to be done between 2020 and 2021). For artists and visual arts professionals:

  • Provide for forms of compensation for lost earnings for cancelled assignments in the months of health emergency, including for artists and visual arts professionals who are not VAT holders;
  • Promote a working table composed of the different actors representing the contemporary art system apt to propose fundamental interventions for the survival of the art system to the consequences of the crisis;
  • Postpone the payment deadline for VAT-registered freelancers after the June 30 deadline related to tax and contribution payments as already requested by ACTA (Italian freelancers’ association);
  • Calming rents through tax credits for artist studios and nonprofit art production venues.

Instead, here are proposals for museums, foundations and nonprofits:

  • Introduce government grants to guarantee salaries for current staff; support the cost of rents and suspend taxes for the next 18 months;
  • Implement a plan to fund artistic productions and innovative research projects that put the economy of the entire cultural supply chain back into circulation, with a special focus on projects that involve the communities and territories of reference of the institutions, strengthening their social impact;
  • Simplify new prevention regulations that imply a different use of spaces, especially safety regulations, related to the mixed use of spaces;
  • Facilitate requests for change of use to incentivize co-design of activities and multifunctional use of spaces, including as training sites in collaboration with schools and universities;
  • Create a system of vouchers to support cultural consumption to be distributed to groups of citizens identified according to parameters of age, income, and origin.

As for the medium-term proposals and requests (i.e. for the period 2020 - 2025), these are goals that aim to reform the Italian contemporary art system, which even before Covid-19 showed clear elements of weakness due to a fragmented organization that, according to the Forum, well represents the variety of cultural districts, the contrast between urban and suburban realities, and the collaborative relationships between public administrations and private entities in the Italian territory. The Forum of Italian Contemporary Art, at its meeting at Pecci in Prato in 2015, had identified three main areas of possible implementation: training, public-private relations, and the promotion of Italian art.

One of the goals identified then remains a priority and involves the creation of an autonomous body that would offer artists and practitioners of Italian contemporary art stable and ongoing support from public and private funds, which would also analyze the effectiveness of the strategies implemented, modeled on the support bodies present in the Netherlands (Mondriaan Fund), Great Britain (Arts Council), and Denmark (Danish Arts Foundation). As anticipated, according to the Forum, it is necessary for the government to define a Cultural New Deal that, including through tables of consultation and co-design, provides for interventions in sectors that have long since proven to be strategic such as: health, sociality (in the sense of care), education, research, culture and the environment. In particular, for the visual arts sector, there is a need to create a systemic strategy for the contemporary sector, involving the different actors involved in it, fostering an organic growth of each actor involved, for the benefit of the whole sector.

The actions to be taken fall into several areas: starting with the redefinition of the categories of contemporary artistic expressions beyond the concept of the work (support for artistic-curatorial methodology instead of the exclusive creation of the work understood as a material product, and consequent subdivision of the categories of support request into research, practice, and work). The Forum then proposes theincrease of public support for the promotion of artists and art professionals with the strengthening of the structure of the Italian Council’s Call for Proposals and the enlargement of the economic support provided, and with the ’activation of the Italian Institutes of Culture as promoters of residencies and contemporary art productions. Another area of intervention, theaffirmation of the professional category of visual arts workers through the recognition by the Mibact of the category of visual arts workers and the definition of a tax and social security system tailored to the visual arts sector (the professional associations, the Forum proposes, will take on the task of asking the Ministry of’’Economy and Finance and the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy the definition of a system of support including dedicated funds and specific welfare for artists and art workers taking into account the peculiar and often intermittent nature of these professions, as well as a system of accessible protections and facilities for research and training activities).

Still, the Forum proposesexpanding the definition of “Museum” and supporting exhibition spaces for their role as connectors in the territory. The document states that "there is a need to rethink the public function of cultural institutions by abandoning the logic of takings in favor of a greater commitment to research and the formulation of sustainable projects with a spillover effect on the local context; there is a need to move away from the logic of the chain of events to produce long-term projects and support research and artistic practice beyond the production of objects; it is necessary for the museum and art institutions to acquire the status of educational institutions, to encourage collaboration with theUniversity and research institutions and to access funding calls for national and international projects; in order to incentivize donations and long-term loans from private individuals for the benefit of public collections, it is necessary to identify forms of support for the benefit of collectors and galleries; the system of support for nonprofit, public and private exhibition spaces that work in the territories and create work opportunities in which to experiment and define their research in the absence of commercial constraints and conditioning must be expanded.

As for actions to strengthen the system of patronage and public-private collaboration, the Forum proposes: a reform of the Art Bonus, in order to include among the beneficiaries the contemporary sector, aimed at research and artistic production, cultural entities, and the same galleries that carry out an activity of research, as also requested by the Committee of Contemporary Art Foundations; the promotion and support of models of widespread patronage such as crowdfunding, to which the state, regions and municipalities can join as co-financiers; the study of the possibility of introducing aconcessional VAT rate, bringing it in line with European parameters for imports and exports and for sales at fairs and other temporary events; the introduction of taxation on capital gains realized from the sale in the second market of works in private hands within five years of thepurchase, in order to create a fund to benefit public spending on the visual arts sector; the expansion and simplification of deductibility and deductibility as an incentive for cultural investments for individuals and businessesand the extension also in Italy of the possibility of using works of art for access to credit.

Finally, the last area of intervention is the development of digital potential in the field of culture and contemporary art through the implementation of programs aimed at supporting paths of “Multimedia Literacy” in an active, punctual and widespread manner (developing a path of learning and acquisition of analytical and “critical,” for adults and children) and actions of digital culture education and overcoming the “divide,” to better understand the deep roots of digital transformation and the artistic and cultural scenarios in which to operate in the years to come. Last proposal, the acceleration of the process for the extension of citizenship income to a truly universal and unconditional “Basic Income” that would put everyone and everyone in a position to live a dignified life and not be subjected to the blackmail of degrading and unprotected jobs.

The Contemporary Art Forum calls on the government. Here are the requests sent to Conte
The Contemporary Art Forum calls on the government. Here are the requests sent to Conte

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