Dozens of senior representatives from the arts have attacked the British Council (BC) in an open letter today.

Artists including Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and Antony Gormley use the letter, published in this morning's Guardian, to voice concern at the alleged "demise" of the BC's visual arts department.

The BC is the UK's main body for promoting British art and culture around the world and recently hit the headlines when the Kremlin announced it required its removal from Moscow.

Although a popular body among the arts community, reported plans to centralise its different departments into a single body have met with dismay from artists.

"We are specially concerned at the demise of its internationally acclaimed visual arts department," the letter writes.

"Why, without any consultation, does the BC seem intent on abandoning the best proven means of conducting cultural relations through the arts?"

Other luminaries placing their signature to the letter include broadcaster Melvyn Bragg, actress Joanna Lumley, artist Lucian Freud and illustrator Quentin Blake.

Directors of the Tate Britain and the National Portrait Gallery and the chief executive of the Royal Academy are also signatories.

12/01/2008 20:08:06