The Apollo Gallery at the Louvre in Paris was renovated with money from Total, the oil company. (Photo: Remy de la Mauviniere/Associated Press)

Last week the shadow culture secretary for Britain’s Conservative Party, Jeremy Hunt, promised to introduce “a U.S.-style culture of philanthropy” if the Tories come to power in the coming election. Speaking before the State of the Arts conference in London, Mr. Hunt foresaw a “golden age” of tax breaks to encourage private donations and help cut back on government spending.

“I do believe in state funding,” he reassured his no doubt partly skeptical audience, “but we are committed to a mixed-economy funding model for the arts.” He added that the party’s shadow chancellor, George Osborne, agreed with him.

And in Paris last month the Pompidou museum was shut down by a strike for more than two weeks, and other museums for several days, because France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy, also wants to reduce arts support. He has proposed making cuts in the whole state workforce, with its jobs for life and generous pensions, including at cultural institutions like the Louvre, the palace of Versailles and the National Library. The plan is for only one worker to replace every two who retire. The Pompidou Center’s labor union estimates that the museum would lose some 200 jobs in the next decade as a result.

French museums are supposed to raise money if they want more workers. In short, to Americanize the system, as Mr. Hunt is proposing in Britain.

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Michael Kimmelman
New York Times

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