The New Walk Museum and Art Gallery is hosting exhibitions for the City Gallery

Leicester council's gallery U-turn

Gareth Harris, Issue 111/01, p10, 04.01.2011
Council backtracks on decision to scrap plan to build City Gallery venue

Leicester City Council has decided to review its decision to scrap plans to create a new art gallery in the city.

The City Gallery, a contemporary art space housed in a leased property in the city centre until January 2010, was going to relocate to a £2.5m site at 50 New Walk.

But it had been decided to abandon the scheme following a Leicester council spending squeeze. “I think it would be wrong, while we’re making people redundant at the council, to continue funding an expensive art gallery,” said Labour councillor Robert Wann.

Annual council funding of £129,000 for the City Gallery project is to be slashed to £34,000. With the City Art Gallery plan shelved, this money would have been transferred to another city institution, the New Walk Museum and Art Gallery, with plans to host three annual exhibitions there. Council officials estimated that the move would save £95,000 annually.

But Labour councillor Ross Willmott said: “I persuaded the Labour group to withdraw the cabinet paper until we had seen the whole budget [to be announced in the spring]. We may be able to find the money from elsewhere, for example, through highways maintenance.”

The City Gallery project is subsequently still under discussion. Another proposal involves opening an art space in the Central Lending Library.

“My argument is that the council is sitting on around £70m in capital money in the bank, so £2.5m for a replacement art gallery in a prime location is eminently affordable, on anyone’s terms,” added Willmott.

Arts Council England also funds the City Gallery. A spokeswoman said: “Arts Council England is aware of developments with the City Gallery, but we have not received a formal decision about Leicester City Council’s intentions for the gallery.

“We currently fund the City Gallery’s visual-arts programme and it will receive £126,909 in 2011-12.”