A National Art Gallery for Jersey – it’s time for the industry to respond.

On Friday last, Jersey’s Education Sport & Culture Minister, Senator Mike Vibert, published his Strategic Plan for a National Gallery for Jersey and requested interested parties to respond with comments on the proposal. You can download a copy by clicking here

Along with the Strategic Plan, the Minister published yet another report from Locum Consulting (the third of substance from these consultants in two years – Jersey has served them well!). This Concept and Impact Assessment Report outlines the cost of building the Gallery (almost £10million) and offers solutions as to how this capital cost together with the annual running costs of c. £500k will be financed – without asking taxpayers to cough up.

Leaving aside the benefit to the local community – it is difficult to argue against this – I would focus attention on the Gallery as a contributor to the visitor economy. Locum has produced various revenue projections based on different admission charges, ranging from free entry to a £9.00 entry fee. Based on current staying leisure visitor numbers, they suggest between 28,000 and 50,000 visitors would put the gallery on their ‘must see’ list in one year – plus a few more day trippers, business visitors and even 2000 visiting yachtsmen! This would make it the third most popular attraction for visitors after Durrell and the Jersey War Tunnels.

Locum go into a huge amount of detail in their projections and suggest that the Gallery will even produce additional visits to Jersey from tourists, as images of the Gallery will ‘tip the balance’ in favour of a visit.

Readers of this blog will know that for some time I have been advocating the construction of a purpose-built conference centre on the Waterfront (click here to refresh your memory). From a purely visitor economy perspective, the Gallery will in no way provide the benefits that a conference and events centre, capable of holding 1000 delegates and hosting concerts and sports events as well as corporate meetings would have for all of the stakeholders in Jersey’s tourism industry.

I hope that our trade representatives, Jersey Hospitality, will consult with its members before formulating their response to this proposal. Please take time to read the documents and make your views known to the JHA or direct to David Greenwood, Assistant Director – Culture and Lifelong Learning at ESC, who is responsible for managing the consultation.

One thought – what about combining the Gallery with a Conference and Events Centre and creating a building that will benefit both residents and visitors alike?


Anonymous said...

As nice as it would be to have a National Gallery it is a long way down the majority of residents Christmas list. It is time that this minority of islanders recognise that residents dont want culture forced down their throats and in fact have evolved in different directions and enjoy different pleaseures.
I am extremly dissappointed in the Education ministers thought process that believes that the gallery can be achieved at no expense to the tax payer. what rubbish. The land the gallery would sit on has a value, money spent on it from other development procedes could be used for other projects.

A Holiday In The Sun said...

I'm in total agreement with Anonymous.

But I'd also like to add....

In November it was stated that the gallery could cost £6 million to build and between £250,000 - £500,00 a year to maintain. Under those costs the admission fee would be £10 per person.

So let's work at the lower end of the scale, and assume the gallery will only cost £250,000 to run.

At £10 a head entrance fee they're going to need a guaranteed 25,000 visitors every year just to cover running costs. Art galleries by default don't tend to attract much casual interest, so that's 25,000 art buffs needed. Or the few art buffs currently resident on the island to visit numerous times each, totalling a collective figure of 25,000 visits.

Either scenario would seem rather unlikely to me, though I wouldn't be surprised if the gallery managed to hit that target in their first year purely because of people's natural curiousity. But to keep it up year after year? No. Not unless we can reverse the ever dwindling tourist situation and boost vistor numbers back up to 1980's levels - which would see passing tourist trade making up a large percentage of the required 25,000 visits.

And of course even if that £250,000 is hit, there will still the construction costs of £6 million to claw back, and costs for purchashing various artworks - the latter of which of course would have to be of the highest standard (thus highest expense) for a gallery of 'national' stature.

Also, we need to factor in another of the suggested plans for the venue. To divide the gallery into free and pay-to-view sections.

This plan sees the free section featuring publically owned artwork, and the paid section featuring work from private collections. Having that free section would immediately cut deeply into the required 25,000 paid visits, because the casual or the curious would probably be happy simply to view the free stuff.

It also seems rather strange to me that the people planning this scheme are assuming that enough art from private collections will be donated to fill enough of the building to justify a £10 entrance fee.

And to be completely honest, I cannot see this project happening without public money being required at some stage....which in the current climate of GST and other forthcoming taxations, will be completely unacceptable.

What I think lies behind the motivation for this project is very much an "if we build it they will come" mentality", a very misguided desperation to find a quick-fix 'cure' for the currently terminal nature of our tourism industry.

Within that context the construction of a 'Nation Gallery of Jersey' is a very big risk to take. If it pays off, Jersey will reap huge long-term financial rewards and international kudos. But if fails, it will fail magnificently, and become this century's largest and most expensive island folly.

The problem is, a realistic look at the odds for such a gamble probably doesn't even give a 20/80 chance of guaranteed success of hitting and sustaining that 25,000 vistor figure (or the latest revision of 28,000 - 50,000!).

If I offered you those same odds on the flip of a coin, not asking you to gamble £6 million, but just asking you to gamble your next month's paycheque....how eagerly would you take them?

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