Hidden cheque at Milton Keynes Gallery reveals artists grudge

Hunting for the hidden cheque at MK Gallery
Hunting for the hidden cheque at MK Gallery

THE artist who secretly hid an £8,000 blank cheque in Milton Keynes Gallery is taking a symbolic swipe at a leading city charity, the Citizen can reveal.

Tomas Georgeson describes his generous gesture as an “artistic statement” to support the gallery and encourage more visitors.

But this week, as dozens of people continue to search for the cheque before the March 1 deadline, Tomas admitted there were other reasons.

The £8,000 he is prepared to pay out is exactly the same amount as the annual artist’s bursary offered by Milton Keynes Community Foundation.

Tomas, along with several other city-bred artists, has been unable to apply for the bursary since he moved to live just outside the Milton Keynes unitary authority boundary.

“I was frustrated about this aspect of the policy and I wanted to turn this frustration into something positive,” he said.

“I think the arts bursary is critically important in encouraging young artists to stay in Milton Keynes ... If my cheque can help change that aspect of the arts policy it would be a great thing.”

The community foundation said this week its policy could not change because its money was donated by local people specifically to benefit people living within MK boundaries.

Meanwhile the gallery, currently staging an exhibition by Swiss artists Silvia Bachli and Eric Hattan, has reported at least 200 extra visitors since the hidden cheque story broke.

Tomas. who insists “art is more important than money” did not ask the gallery’s permission to hide the cheque and surprised staff only found out when the story hit national and local press headlines.

Ironically he told the Telegraph he had placed an advert in the Citizen to inform the public. But the ad never appeared and Citizen enquiries revealed it had been booked but never paid for.

Gallery spokesman Katherine Sorensen said: “You see people coming in and clearly searching for something. Then they pause and look at the artwork. That is good.”

She said gallery staff have conducted their own search and found no sign of the cheque.

“This building is basically a white cube with no nooks or crannies or hiding places. It is a mystery.”