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  • Nice work if you can get it

    Posted on August 29th, 2009 admin No comments
    Well worth the money.....

    Well worth the money.....

    When the employees at the Information Commissioner’s office next look up from their in-trays to wonder why the Ministry of Justice so openly underfunds its illegitimate offspring in Cheshire they might want to ponder on modern art.

    Because while they gather round the coffee machine looking for small change the people who hold the purse strings in London have just splashed out £118,000 on a modern art sculpture for its HQ.

    This work which the artist describes as a “monument to uncertainty and infinite possibility” was just one of four pieces specifically commissioned for the MoJ.

    We know how much it cost because the Department of Culture, Media and Sport capitulated in their attempts to keep the prices it pays for artwork secret and now publishes them in an annual report [link] – something it didn’t do before the Freedom of Information Act came in and something they tried to oppose, claiming it should be covered by the S.43 (Commercial Interests) exemption.

    I know this because it was I who took the case to the Information Tribunal in relation to an art installation at the National Maritime Museum. It was one of the first Tribunal cases in the country and the cowardly Commissioner was against me claiming the information was covered by S.43.

    Fortunately the Tribunal panel could see the immaturity of the Commissioner’s argument and sided with me saying S.43 was not even engaged so they didn’t bother to go on to consider the public interest argument.

    The artist whose piece of work was at the centre of that argument in front of the Tribunal was Conrad Shawcross, who is later emerged got paid around £20,000 for his collection of wooden hoops called Continuum, which were described as a “wooden spring like structure…moving through itself in perpetuity”.

    Getting back to the MoJ, guess who is the artist behind the curious heap of wood in its coffee room…. yes you’ve guessed it, Conrad Shawcross.

    Conrad with his "cheap by comparison" collection of hoops at the National Maritime Museum

    Conrad with his "cheap by comparison" collection of hoops at the National Maritime Museum

    What better proof could you have that S.43 didn’t harm the commercial interests of Mr Shawcross. In 2004 he flogs a selection of wood to a publicly-funded museum for £20,000 and then three years later he sells another collection of wooden pieces for £118,000. I would say it is quite clear Mr Shawcross didn’t need the protection of S.43 and the Tribunal were right.

    You can find the Information Commissioner’s decision on the case [here] and the Tribunal’s ruling on it [here] . If you’d like to know more about Mr Shawcross click [here] for his art or [here] for his wiki entry.