The government has spent £1.5 million on art to hang inside government buildings since the start of the pandemic, The Big Issue can reveal.
Artworks purchased by the Government Art Collection since March 2020 include an £80,000 painting, a David Hockney print, a £178,000 fibreglass statue, and a limited edition tapestry by Grayson Perry, according to figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request by The Big Issue.
The spending has been slammed as a “vanity” project as the government plans sweeping civil service job cuts and the cost of living crisis grips the country, with prices skyrocketing and wages falling.
Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents civil servants, said: “This is the very definition of a vanity project. That the government would prioritise spending money on art ahead of protecting jobs or giving civil servants a pay rise is grotesque.”
On plans to cut 91,000 civil service jobs, Boris Johnson told staff: “We must ensure the cost of government is no greater than absolutely necessary to deliver for the people we serve.” And in a speech last week on the cost of living crisis he said: “It is time for the Government to stop spending, and to start cutting taxes and cutting regulation.”
Meanwhile, the Government Art Collection has been busily adding to its 14,000-strong stockpile. In February of this year, it purchased an £88,200 painting by British artist Jadé Fadojutimi and an £86,400 tapestry produced by Grayson Perry.