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Alex Hartley
Alex Hartley, nowhereisland, one of the Olympiad's "Artists Taking the Lead" commissions


June 27, 2011

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A group of 120 cultural leaders, including curator Nicholas Serota, former London National Gallery director Charles Saumarez Smith, National Portrait Gallery director Sandy Nairne, multimedia artist Zineb Sidera and Serpentine Gallery director Julia Peyton Jones are protesting Britain’s points-based immigration policy, which they say has dissuaded visiting artists -- who have “no impact on migration” -- from returning to the nation.

“Writers and performers who have long been welcomed by the UK now find that they are required to undergo a visa application process that is needlessly bureaucratic and intrusive,” read a letter to the Telegraph that was signed by the group of prominent writers, actors, museum directors and musicians. “Non-EU visiting artists wishing to enter the country have been treated poorly either through the process of application or at the entry points.”

In particular, the letter points out how the system is hurting the already embattled Cultural Olympiad, the four-year-long arts festival set to coincide with the Olympics in London in 2012. The Olympiad has already taken a beating by ongoing charges that it has mismanaged its marketing campaign. The BBC and the Telegraph have both pointed out that scarcely any Londoners have heard of the event -- despite its hefty £94 million price tag.

Funds have gone toward a £820,000 exhibition program for deaf and disabled artists, £500,000 for Shauna Richardson’s three crocheted wool lions, and £500,000 to sail performance artists Gregg Whelan and Gary Winters’ wooden boat along England’s southern coast, landing in London for the Olympics.

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