PM under fire after nearly £100k spent on works of art for No10

9 August 2021, 07:11 | Updated: 10 August 2021, 05:39

Boris Johnson has come under fire after £100k was spent on the artworks
Boris Johnson has come under fire after £100k was spent on the artworks. Picture: Alamy
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Boris Johnson has come under fire after it was revealed the government spent nearly £100,000 on two works of art to be displayed inside No10.

A painting by Belfast artist Cathy Wilkes and a set of works by photographer and installation artist Willie Doherty will be hung on the walls of his Downing Street residence, according to a report in the Daily Mirror.

The two pieces were paid for through the Government's Art Collection fund and cost £70,200 and £18,775 respectively.

Although the fund mostly consists of contributions from donors, it is supplemented by taxpayer cash.

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Opposition MPs condemned the spending, branding the works as an unnecessary luxury when ministers are facing tough decisions on spending cuts and tax hikes.

Labour MP Neil Coyle tweeted: "As his Government cuts Universal Credit and freezes frontline nurse/police pay, Johnson has found more money to treat himself. Again.

"He could not be more out of touch."

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Meanwhile, Labour MP for South Shields Emma Lewell-Buck told the Mirror: "The selfishness of this prime minister is galling.

"When shelves are bare in my local food banks, businesses have gone to the wall, public sector and key workers have suffered pay freezes and cuts, his priority is once again himself."

A government spokeswoman defended the spending, saying: "The Government Art Collection helps to promote the creativity of British art and culture by showcasing its works in the UK and across the globe.

"It acquires new works after consulting and securing the approval of an independent expert panel, and the majority of funding for acquisitions comes from philanthropic sources - not taxpayers' money.

"The Government Art Collection is committed to public engagement and lends extensively to public exhibitions and collaborates with public facing national events and through its digital platforms."

The works of art bought for No10 were created by Cathy Wilkes and Willie Doherty
The works of art bought for No10 were created by Cathy Wilkes and Willie Doherty. Picture: Alamy

It is understood the two works were purchased to mark the centenary of the foundation of Northern Ireland.

Former culture secretary Ed Vaizey, now a Tory peer, also supported the spending, saying: "Govt art collection has supported British artists for 120 years - a unique cultural asset for our country."

He added: "(Boris Johnson) would have had no involvement in acquisition, which wld have come from existing budget."