The Art of Being Selfish

examines the centralisation of art in London

Image Credit: dalbera

Image: dalbera

Paintings, paintings everywhere, but not a lot to see. With a consolidation of Britain’s best art in the hallowed halls of London galleries, this has certainly been the state of affairs in the country’s art industry.

While this may seem logical, London being the cultural hub that it is, it is difficult to ignore the emptying, but beautiful art museums of Leeds, Manchester, Edinburgh and other cities. York, having recently been named UNESCO City of Media Arts, is an example of a city who has managed to flourish in the arts despite the lack of traditional works from those who are typically termed “the old masters”. But the disparity between the wealth of masterpieces in the country’s capital and other cities only exposes the Londoncentric sense of entitlement.

Although this attitude may not be entirely misplaced, a more democratic distribution of art is called for. No one is asking the National Gallery to give up Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, or one of their prized Monets, but possessing art is a privilege, not a right.

Art journalist, Jonathan Jones, wrote a piece for The Guardian demanding that the Freud collection of Auerbach’s art be permanently consolidated in the Tate in London. His argument that only the Tate has the international clout to secure Auerbach’s reputation is extremely patronising to the hundreds of talented curators and staff around the country who work hard to feel proud of their collections.

Instead, there needs to be greater dialogue between galleries to negotiate the distribution of art, either giving precedence to London for major works by a certain artist and then conceding other pieces to smaller museums or by agreeing to be more generous with loaning art to other cities.

After all, does the National Gallery really need five Monet paintings of the same bridge?

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