LONDON mayor Sadiq Khan has said supporting arts and culture is among his top priorities as he revealed he is developing a new culture strategy for the city and stressed it remains open to new ideas and talent.
In the four years after the city hosted the Olympics in 2012, London’s top museums and galleries saw an 11 per cent increase in visits from overeas; overseas visitors also made 18.7 million visits last year to the city’s best known cultural institutions, according to one report.
Khan, who launched the autumn season of cultural exhibitions and events at the Science Museum in south Kensington last Wednesday (17), said the city “inspires, stimulates, and amazes” and emphasised it was open to people and new talent.
“We’ve become one of the biggest, richest and best cities on earth because of our openness to trade, innovation and talent. And in the weeks, months, and years ahead, at this critical time in our history, it’s vital we send up a clear message ‘this will never cease to be the case’,” Khan said.
He described this year’s autumn season as “the greatest yet” as he revealed plans for a new Math ematics Gallery at the Science Museum (opens December 8), which was the last project of late London-based architect Dame Zaha Hadid.
Exhibitions featuring works by Picasso, Rothko, Pollock, De Kooning and Caravaggio are among highlights at museums and galleries later this year.
Renowned British Bangladeshi choreographer Akram Khan, who performed at the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony, will work with the English National Ballet on Giselle (November 15-19).
The mayor spoke of the importance of supporting culture and the arts, asserting that: “For me, culture and arts doesn’t just reflect London and who we are, it shapes us. Culture is the DNA of our city, the glue that binds us together, and only contributes to our economy and our reputation around the world, improves our well-being and benefits society.
“It can inspire us, develop skills and build confidence in those who take part. And that’s why I’m in the process of developing a new culture strategy for London, a piece of work I want to be the boldest and most far-reaching vision for culture this city has ever seen.
“That’s why as long as I’m mayor of this great city, the arts and culture will never be considered just as an extra add-on, an extravagance, just a nice thing to support when we can. No, it’s an area that’s crucial to the future of our city and the prosperity of all Londoners, and will always be treated this way while I’m the mayor.
“The political events of recent months have reminded us all about what’s important to our city we embrace and celebrate our diversity; we’re proud of our history, optimistic about the future and we’re open to the world.”
In her remarks, artistic director of the Southbank Centre Jude Kelly said it was the responsibility of the cultural community to deliver the mayor’s message that London is open.
Kelly said: “It’s up to us in the cultural sector, since we talk so much about the power of culture to change lives; it’s up to us to never pull the ladder up behind us, even inadvertently.
“Nothing is beyond possibility in London if we feel that the most exciting ecology we can witness is not the great and the good, but the many, the various and the unheard voices today might be the most important message for tomorrow.
“So I think that Sadiq’s generous metaphor; London is open, is something that we can take on and make sure we take responsibility.