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The Art Fund has commissioned a permanent installation that depends on natural light, known as a skyspace, by renowned American artist James Turrell at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP). The skyspace will be created within the deer shelter, an 18th century Grade II Listed building within the park.

Art Fund director David Barrie said the installation, which cost over £800,000 and is entitled Deer Shelter, was intended to encourage museums and galleries to start commissioning more work, particularly work by international artists.

He said: “We’ve decided to make a big gesture. We’re spending the largest sum of money we’ve ever spent on anything to commission a really great work of art by one of the greatest living artists, James Turrell.”

Research conducted by the Art Fund has found that many museums and galleries do not have enough funds to acquire new pieces or commission artists. This forces them to rely on bequests to expand their collections and reduces their capacity to purchase foreign work.

Barrie said: “Museums and galleries exist to give access to their collections and if these collections cannot develop, the museums and galleries themselves will lose vigour. They will lose talent, they won’t attract visitors and their ability to collaborate in developing international
exhibitions will be limited.”

He added that by commissioning the skyspace, the Art Fund had thrown down the gauntlet to the government to invest more money in the arts. “I hope the government think, ‘Good Lord, if an independent charity can do that, why can’t we? Why can’t we make it possible for the public to have access to great works of art from around the world?’

“If we actually believe that museums and galleries are an important part of the cultural fabric in this country, then ministers need to face up to their responsibilities to fund them properly and they should stop using museums and galleries to promote their own political agendas.”

The Art Fund is using the opening of Deer Shelter to launch a membership drive. It aims to boost its membership from 80,000 to 250,000, which would enable it to increase its annual grant fund from £5m to £10m. Deer Shelter opens to the public on April 28.