By Paul Casciato
LONDON (Reuters) - The Tate museum called for a five-year public funding "contract" with the British government on Thursday to help stabilize its role as a national repository of art in an era of declining public finances for culture.
The Tate - which comprises four main museums, 70,000 works of art and includes the most visited gallery of modern art in the world - said it required the commitment to provide clarity for its long-term financing plans.
Tate Trustees Chairman John Browne told reporters the Tate's "grant-in-aid" from the government was cut by 3.5 percent again this year, part of a steady reduction in funding for the arts across Europe in an age of austerity brought on by the 2008 global crash in financial markets.
"Our ability to rely on public funds is only going to decrease, which means the link between art grants and the public services we provide will need to be redefined," Browne said at the Tate's annual meeting.
The museum group received 31.5 million pounds ($50.60 million) of government funding money in 2012-13 and took in 56.4 million pounds from what it called "self-generated income" from its commercial activities, according to its annual report. It spent 40.7 million pounds on public programming.
Browne said a clear contractual arrangement with the government would help to unlock long-term and sustainable philanthropic sources of funding.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said there had been a "good settlement for the arts" in the latest spending review and new measures to provide easier access to finance.
"These include greater freedom for museums to spend reserves as they see fit, the flexibility to opt out of government procurement controls, and the power to take loans from their sponsoring department. Together, this forms a fantastic new package for these institutions," a spokesman said.
The Tate, which receives donations and sponsorship from major corporations and wealthy people as well as everyday donations from its nearly 8 million visitors, has two major projects already under way.
Its towering modern art gallery on the banks of the Thames in a converted power station across from London's St. Paul's Cathedral is in the midst of putting up a new £215 million building, while its Tate Britain, also in the capital, is nearing the end of a 45 million pound transformation.
The Tate also unveiled some of its exhibitions for the coming year and the latest part of a digital strategy to put art into the public space over the Internet.
The Tate Modern will track the latter part of French artist Henri Matisse's career (1869-1954). British artist and a founding figure of pop art Richard Hamilton (1922-2011) will get a retrospective.
Turner Prize winner Richard Deacon will display 40 works of sculpture and drawings at the Tate Britain, which will also have a themed show on ruins and ruination in British art from the 17th century to the present day
Tate Modern has also installed interactive screens that invite visitors to draw, take pictures and write about art, which are projected onto a wall in the gallery, on screens in a stairwell, sent to social media site Flickr and saved. ($1 = 0.6226 British pounds)
(Additional reporting by Costas Pitas; Editing by Alison Williams)