Friday 29 February 2008

Die, blockbuster, die

Nicholas Penny, new director of the National Gallery, London, has told the press that it's time for the institution to re-assume its role of showing audiences work that they are unfamiliar with, rather than staging rote shows based on well-known names. From the Times:

“The responsibility of a major gallery is to show people something they haven’t seen before,” [Penny] said. “A major national institution should be one that proves a constant attraction to the public. What is important is encouraging historical and visual curiosity in the general public.”

Jonathan Jones has written a long and interesting response in the Guardian. He notes that it's not the 'blockbuster' that's at fault:

A blockbuster suggests to me a mighty, epic - and yes, crowd-pleasing, why not? - romp through a great artist or period or theme. Britain's galleries don't do exhibitions like that - they do squibs that sound good on paper, and in the paper, whether it's a Caravaggio show with no Bacchus or Medusa, or a Duchamp exhibit that prefers to dwell on his snapshots than explore the mysteries of the Large Glass. By the time anyone notices the exhibition is actually a bit shallow, it's too late to ask for your money back.

By the by - the term 'blockbuster' dates from WWII and colloquially referred to bombs big enough to wipe out an entire city block. On that sobering note - thanks for reading, enjoy your weekend, get out to Waikanae if you can!

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