Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Fighting over a kangaroo

The Kongouro from New Holland by George Stubbs
Picture: Guardian
Art History News makes a good defence of the National Maritime Museum's bid for the Stubbs paintings that the National Gallery of Australia wants. I'll be happy if it does stay in London, but I don't mind art going abroad provided it goes to a good home. I still back Australia - we've got lots of good Stubbs in London already, and pictures of Australian animals by a major artist seem to me to perfect acquisitions for the Australian NG. Australia is a bit of a schlep from London, but it's still part of the empire commonwealth after all.  

Wherever the pictures end up, I've enjoyed the debate. Both museums have put forward good arguments and the public discussion about museum acquisitions has been a welcome change from tedious slanging matches about diversity and inclusion and participation. Maurice Davies of the Museums Association, who is always wrong, disagrees. He thinks the curators care more about their own 'curatorial glory' than 'the people'. I suspect the people will be served better by the pursuit of curatorial glory than the invocation of 'the people'. It's an especially ironic comment from Davies because the Museums Association completely ignored 'the people's' response when they didn't agree with his agenda. And his solution of sharing the pictures between museums on opposite sides of the globe is daft; aside from the risk of damage, what happens if the co-owners disagree about a loan request or proposed conservation treatment? Fashionable sharing arrangements are inherently unsatisfactory. One institution will have to lose out in the Stubbs tussle. We'd all lose out if the Museums Association had its way.

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