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Wednesday 30 July 2014

Artist hides blank cheque for £8,000 in gallery to encourage visitors

Published 29/01/2013|17:05

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Milton Keynes gallery

Artist Tomas Georgeson has hidden a blank cheque for £8,000 in Milton Keynes Gallery in an attempt to boost interest and visitor numbers.

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Buckinghamshire artist Tomas Georgeson has left a blank cheque for £8,000 in Milton Keynes Gallery in the hope it will raise local interest in the town’s fledgling art scene. Georgeson told the Telegraph that he concealed the cheque in the gallery on Tuesday morning, and has placed an advert in a local paper to inform local residents. The advert, which will be printed in The Milton Keynes Citizen on Wednesday, says: “A blank cheque for £8,000 has been hidden somewhere in the public spaces of Milton Keynes Gallery. It will be collected on 1 March 2013 if unclaimed.”



Georgeson says that he decided to hide the cheque as a statement of support for the gallery, and that he wanted to “get people through the door and change the mood of the place.”



When the new town was devised in the late 1960s, Milton Keynes received generous funding for the arts in an attempt to encourage local culture. However, Georgeson says that the “brave” creative decisions that helped form the town in the 1970s had slowed by the 1980s to make way for developments which would generate cash flow more quickly. “You can’t just implant culture in a city and expect it to thrive,” Georgeson says. “But now it seems it’s the time for culture to come to Milton Keynes.”



While Georgeson says that he’ll stand by the cheque as an artistic statement, it is meant as a benevolent gesture to the gallery and its visitors, rather than an intrusion on the exhibited work. “The integrity of what the gallery does is fantastic,” he comments, “but I see a disconnect between the gallery and the public.”



Georgeson says that the £8,000 represents nearly all the money he has. “It won’t bounce if somebody finds the cheque and cashes it. I’m prepared to live with the consequences of that happening, and I could only be prepared if I thought it would really do some good” he said.

“It almost doesn’t matter what happens, it’s the fact that it’s there. If somebody chooses to spend it on mortgage payments, then those mortgage payments would become art, which is quite miraculous to me.” Georgeson requests that the public respect the artwork on display if hunting for the cheque.



Georgeson did not let the gallery know that he had hidden the cheque. A press representative from the gallery said they and several colleagues “have made a careful search of the gallery’s public spaces and found no trace of a blank cheque for £8,000.”



The gallery was built in 1999, and has hosted exhibitions from artists including Gilbert and George, Juergen Teller, Patrick Caulfield and Andy Warhol. It was initially funded through a major Big Lottery award and local fundraising, but the gallery announced last week that it had been invited by Arts Council England to apply for a Stage Two grant to fund a re-development. Anthony Spira, a former curator at Whitechapel Gallery in London, has been the gallery’s director since 2009.

Alice Vincent Telegraph.co.uk

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