Monday, October 29, 2007

I've Been Robbed.

This weekend we went down to the big city to meet Brain and Di for the afternoon and I finally got to see what they have done to The Kelvingrove in Glasgow. The Kelvingrove re-opened eighteen months ago after an extensive, and expensive (£27 millions quids worth of expensive) restoration. I love the Kelvingrove. It's a magnificent building, a high Victorian basilica of the arts and a monument to the stinking richness of the city at the time it was built. A hugely impressive and solid building, it used to be stuffed full of treasures from all over the world eclectically displayed, sometimes oddly juxtaposed by time and random acts of curation, but full of goodies and oddities. It was, in short, a marvellous place to go and look at things and marvel at the ingenuity and creativity of the human race of the all the ages from all over the world.

What it is is now is a series of coffee shops with a kids' playground strung between them.

They spent 27 million quid fucking the place up. It is terrible. There's no room to look at anything and often no way of finding out what it is you are trying to look at. Most of the wall space seems to be taken up with laminated signs telling you fuck all about anything but asking "How do you feel...?" about this that or the other. The galleries that used to be stuffed full of paintings, and furniture, and sculpture, and artefacts of every kind are now stuffed full of patronising uninformative notices and grandiose display cases that are more about showing how smart and clever the twats who redesigned this place are, than showing to best advantage anything that they may contain. They are so busy interpreting everything for you they don't let you see anything. My lowest point came when I was presented with a glass case full of armour (most of it unlabelled) - at one end of the case was, for no discernible reason, a pair of arms from a suit of armour and underneath them was, for an equally indiscernible reason, a stuffed armadillo. Then I got it. Arms + Arms + Armadillo. Oh, ha bloody ha. They must have pissed themselves with self-congratulatory smugness when they thought that one up.

The kids needless to say loved it. It was full of things to push and crash and flap and squeeze. But so is everywhere else these days. If everywhere turns into a huge feely bag for five year olds where are they going to learn about all the other things in life that are important. If every museum is reduced to the level of the Early Learning Centre with interactive brightly coloured plastic and patronising Janet and John notices, how are they ever going to learn about stillness, and awe, and respect for the arts. If all art is is a bit of background decoration upon which to hang a 'Hands-on Interactive Learning Experience', where are they going to learn about beauty and the sheer overwhelming gobsmacking joy of discovering something wonderful for themselves? How are they going to make the thrilling discovery of hidden treasures if there are only two over-interpreted objects in every room?

The Philistine fuckwits who did over the Kelvingrove wouldn't know an artist experience if it bit them on the arse. Take Dali's Christ of St John of the Cross for example. I'm no great Dali fan myself - too much of the chocolate box painter / showman made good for my taste, but people like him and the Kelvingrove's painting is a famous work of his. So famous in fact that it features heavily in the museum's literature. Why then is it stuffed in a corner with two huge spotlights shining on it? Spotlights which reflect so brightly off the glass, that you can't get close to the painting and see it? It is just a terribly piece of hanging. There are others. Avril Paton's equally iconic (in Scotland anyway), wonderfully voyeuristic painting of a Glasgow tenement block, The Window on the West, is hung way way too high. Far higher than it was in the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art where I last saw it. The only reason it is hung so high is because the structure of the building means there is a stone dado in the way of hanging it any lower. It's in the wrong space. The viewer's eye line needs to be level with the top floor of the block for the painting to do its work, not halfway down the building. Hanging on the wall next to The Window on the West is a massive, floor to ceiling painting. It looked interesting. I would have liked to have been able to step back and look at it - but I couldn't, because there was a huge Janet and John book disguised as a 'learning zone', or some such shite, plonked directly in front of it - which meant you couldn't do anything other than look at the bottom of the the painting and stare up at the rest somewhere near the ceiling, and so it went on, and on etc. etc. etc.

It was a depressing experience. It's crap. The whole place is crap. It didn't used to be. And I feel robbed.

27 million fucking quids worth of robbed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Right chum, you've got three and a half hours to make a post if you're not going to breach your NaBloPoMo promise on the very first day...

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