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European Expert Meeting on Percent for Art Schemes

Session One: Art Commissions in State Buildings

Finland : Veikko Kunnas, State Art Collection

‘From Monuments to installations and moving images'

Veikko Kunnas is chairman of the Finnish State Art Collection Committee. Advisors Erika Hyyrylainen and Liisa-Maria Hakala-Zilliacus also attended the meeting.

Kunnas' presentation was threefold: he briefly sketched the field of the most important institutional financiers (see: percentage schemes), he talked about the Finnish State Art Collection [1] (ditto) and explained how the committee works and, finally, he presented his six practical examples.

Only a small proportion (approximately 200 of the total of 12,000 works) of the Finnish State Art Collection consists of work that was specially made for its location. During the last five years artists have been increasingly involved in larger building projects from the outset of the development of the building so that a meaningful dialogue has arisen between the architect, user and art collection. The State Art Collection Committee aims to incorporate the most recent developments in the visual arts in its projects, for example, developments in the field of multimedia.

The Committee consists of ten experts from various disciplines each with a term of office of three years. An architect, who is attached to the management and development team of government buildings, submits future building projects to the Committee to determine sites for future commissions. The budget is not large and the Committee sees to it that as much of its money as possible goes to the artists. Other partners finance other parts of the procedure.

The State Art Collection has three approaches: it purchases works directly from artists or galleries, organises commissions by open tender (or for which artists are invited to apply) and assigns commissions directly.

Case studies

Stuart Wrede,'Summer monument', 2005

The climate is one of the factors which play a role in the case of this monument which was made from 30 tons of ice from Lapland. It was placed in front of the parliament building in Helsinki in August this year. It can be seen as a performance, with the natural elements as actors. The idea was that it would stand for three to four weeks and slowly transform into a fountain. However, it disappeared within a few days as a result of the warm weather.

The work initiated a discussion in Finland as a lot of people saw it as a waste of tax money. Because of this, Kunnas would like to discuss how to deal with non-permanent purchases.

Max Savikangas, 'Hammer, anvil and stirrup', 2005

The composer Max Savikangas developed an artwork for a service and activity centre for the visually handicapped. The user wanted to have a work which had something to do with touch but, after consultation, the Committee chose an audio installation. The work combines composed sounds with sounds it registers in response to movements in the corridor. Depending on where you walk, subtle sounds can be heard which guide you through the building.

Germany: Vera Moosmayer, Bundesministerium für Verkehr-, Bau und Wohnungswesen (the German Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Housing, BMBVW)

‘Umweltbundesamt Dessau'

Vera Moosmayer is architect and urban planner and works for the BMBVW in Germany. In her introduction Moosmayer explained the federal system in Germany (see: percentage scheme) and presented a practical example.

Moosmayer is interested in other countries' experiences with infrastructural projects because in Germany public applications of art are largely limited to architecture. The federal authorities attach a great deal of value to Kunst am Bau and consider it an inherent element of the building process and an important means of promoting the ‘building culture'. This recognition was the first significant result of the 'Initiative for Architecture and Building Culture' which was set up five years ago. The BMBVW is responsible at the federal level.

The federal guideline (RBBau) for the involvement of artists in the government's building projects has existed since 1957. There was also a percentage scheme for art in public buildings (2% of the building costs) until 1995 but it was abolished because of legal problems. Now a system of calculated demand is in force. Incidentally, it is not possible to shift resources (pooling) between the various building projects. If there is a shortfall, it cannot be supplemented; if there is money left over it is returned to the Ministry of Finance. Some states and cities do work with a pooling system, but such open budgets are the first things to bite the dust in times of financial need and they then come under heavy pressure.

The guidelines are successful in practice. High-quality art projects have been realised as part of federal building projects (for example, the new government building in Berlin ). Improvement is, however, always possible. A study has therefore been started into the practice of applying art in government buildings. This is a fairly complex study because various agencies are involved, such as the Department for Building and Spatial Planning and the building departments of the various states. The scope of the study comprises 22 projects, 15 of which are government buildings. One of the recommendations was to aim for a general implementation of the existing K7 scheme. This has resulted in the ‘Guidelines for Art in Building'. [2]

Case Study: Umweltbundesamt (UBA) in Dessau, Sachsen-Anhalt

Moosmayer showed one example to illustrate how the legislation works in practice; she deliberately chose not to take an example from Berlin. In 1998 Sauerbruch Hutton Architekten won the architectural competition for the Umweltbundesamt in Dessau , Sachsen-Anhalt. The sum of 0.5m euros was available for the application of art in the project, which amounted to about 1% of the building costs. The average building budget varies from 20 to 100m euros; here it was 57m euros. After a public tender to which there were 300 responses, 15 artists were first selected. A jury, consisting of the architect, the user, artists and art experts, subsequently chose three artists and nominated them. These recommendations were followed and the three projects were realised in May 2005. The artists are: Hans Joachim Härtel, with ‘Gefaltete Stelen' (‘Folded pillars'); Elisabeth Heindl, with ‘Konsequenzen' (‘Consequences') and Michael Sellmann with 'Kreutzworträtzel' (‘Crossword Puzzle'). [3] The range showed that traditional forms of art such as sculpture and painting are still dominant, but the target is to promote more innovative forms of art.

Moosmayer closed by emphasising that the guidelines and processes drawn up in Germany work well and have ensured that high quality is achieved and maintained. She recognises the importance of the exchange of experiences and knowledge and this is why she supported the initiative for this expert meeting.


After the presentation, Nelly Voorhuis asked the nationality of the artists. Moosmayer explained that, pursuant to the European Directive, international artists must be involved but because of the low budgets in practice things turn out differently: approximately 90% of the artists are German. Incidentally, the Directive also stipulates that young, female artists must be well represented.

Madeleine van Lennep asked whether there was always an open tender but this is not the case. It depends on the building budget available because a proportion of the budget goes to the process. In the case of bigger projects there is therefore more money available for art. If there is no public tender, the committee makes a preliminary proposal of, for example, 20 artists, and a selection is subsequently made from these names.

Huib van der Werf wanted to know whether the BMVBW has a mandate in the final choice. This is the case, but it uses this mandate circumspectly. The percentage scheme was stopped in the past for similar reasons. It was perceived as an overly coercive instrument, and according to Moosmayer, you achieve more by talking and consultation.

United Kingdom : Adrian George, Government Art Collection

'The New Home Office in London'

Adrian George is the curator of the collection and projects of the Government Art Collection (GAC). He began his presentation by talking about the realisation of the government collection and presented a number of recent examples of commissions in government buildings, concentrating particularly on the New Home Office project in London.

The history of the Government Art Collection [4] stretches back 100 years. That means that it comprises a large variety of works, from oil paintings on panels to video installations to rugs. The collection arose from an informal agreement in 1898 between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the First Commissioner of Works. They entrusted the Ministry of Employment with the responsibility for all works of art in government buildings. The works came from the collections of wealthy ambassadors who bought them to furnish the various residencies.

In 1951 the government was given the central responsibility for the embassies. It saw the art in government buildings and embassies as a way to promote British culture. In 1973 a fund of 250,000 pounds became available for the purchase of British art. This amount has remained the same since then and this is, to put it mildly, a challenge in the 21 st century. In 1980 the Department for Employment was transferred to Art and Libraries and subsequently to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

The Government Art Collection is spread over 450 locations, 150 of which are located in the United Kingdom. It is said that the collection is a hidden one, but that is very questionable when you compare it with the Tate collection, 80% of which is in storage and 20% on display. These figures are the other way round in the case of the government collection and the latter can be interpreted as the biggest museum in terms of available wall space.

In recent years, the British government formulated a number of objectives for public space: to create (or renovate) lively, characteristic public space which is easily accessible, safe, pleasant, of human scale and visually attractive.

An extra ministerial organisation has been set up, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), as has the Better Public Buildings Initiative and the Prime Minister's Better Public Buildings Award, which is financed by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minster and DCMS.

Case Study: Home Office, London, Eric Bedford's Ugly Sisters

The Home Office is the Ministry of the Interior for the United Kingdom. Three thousand people work here and are distributed over seven offices. The main building consists of three linked office buildings (nicknamed the Ugly Sisters). At the end of the nineties, those responsible came to the conclusion that the building was inefficient.

Architect Terry Farrell and Partners designed a completely new building consisting of three blocks which are connected to one another on every floor by means of footbridges. The architectural firm created a pedestrian area between the buildings. CABE suggested procuring art commissions for the building which tied in with the local legislation ( Westminster is one of the few local authorities which have a percentage scheme).

After two years CABE called in the GAC, which proposed three strategies: enriching the architecture by means of the visual arts, developing artworks for the newly-created public space around the building and putting works in the building. The first two aspects are financed by the Private Finance Initiative (consisting of the Home Office, the property developer and the designer), which is also responsible for the building, and the third aspect is financed by the Home Office itself.

The GAC selected Liam Gillick from the shortlist which had been drawn up. He made various designs for the building: he provided an awning and the entrance with coloured glass; made use of the material of the awning on the glass frontage above the entrance and reorganised it in a pattern which was reflected in a ceramic screen on the glass fitted around the building (there is a text hidden in the pattern); finally Gillick created two sculptures each of which mark and label the building on one side.

The GAC subsequently asked Gillick to participate in selecting artists for more works in and around the building. This resulted in a group of six young artists most of whom had not previously worked on large commissions of this type: Roger Hiorns, Georgie Hopton, Runa Islam, Emma Kay, Simon Periton and Gary Webb. Works by Jeremy Deller, Alan Kane, Toby Paterson and Eva Rothschild were installed in the building.

The GAC will be involved in a number of projects in the future. For example, CABE is going to have a new building and the DCMS is going to have new headquarters built.

[1] The State Art Collection cooperates with the Arts Council of Finland. See also the website: www.artscouncil.fi

[2] These can be read at: www.bmvbw.bund.de/bauwesen/baukultur/-,1503.htm

[3] For more information on these projects see: www.bmvbw.bund.de/bauwesen/-,1504/bauherr-bund.htm and www.umweltbundesamt.de/dessau

[4] The entire Government Art Collection has been included in a database. See: www.gac.culture.gov.uk/home/index.asp