Wednesday, 20 March 2013


Picture: Visit Scotland
A slightly tongue-in-cheek argument is sometimes made that the best car safety feature would be a spike in the steering wheel pointed at the driver's chest.  Whereas air bags and side-impact bars give people confidence to drive more dangerously, a spike in the steering wheel would make people act safely and cautiously.  The underlying theory is that we have an internal 'risk thermostat'; we act more recklessly when safety improves, and more cautiously when perceived risk is greater, always tending to take the same level of risk. 
Today it is somewhat safer to transport art (but perceived safety improvement is probably running well ahead of actual safety improvement).  Curators have therefore responded to their risk thermostat and now try to send as much art as possible as far as possible and as often as possible. The lovely Burrell Collection in Glasgow might be the next victim.  Burrell made his fortune in shipping, and understood the risks inherent in transport when he stipulated that works from his bequest must not be loaned.  The barbarians in charge are seeking to overturn his reasonable requirement so that they can prostitute his collection around the world on a tour devoid of any artistic or scholarly purpose.

The council says that a tour will 'reaffirm the collection's status', whatever that means.  Maybe they think that  status arises not from the quality of the collection, but from how often and how far you ship it around the world.  More to the point is that they see it as an easy way to raise cash.  It is an easy way to raise cash, but it's a reckless and irresponsible way to raise cash.    

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