Saturday, 30 August 2008

Ought Titians Be Saved "For The Nation"?

Two old oil paintings that Tracey Emin likes are threatened with being sold abroad (eek! to foreigners who will probably eat their dinner off them or put them in the downstairs' loo) by the Duke of Sutherland. This is the BBC report. The National Gallery of Scotland and the National Gallery of The United Kingdom (England doesn't have her own gallery) have to find £100 million by the end of this year in order to keep the paintings in this country.
Great! Tax on £100 million at 40% is £40 million. That would pay for meticulous research with X-ray, CT scanning, infra red and holographic and high definition photography of the works to enable digitised copies to be placed online for everyone with interweb access to see. In addition, two copies of the paintings using original materials could be produced to hide the unfaded rectangles of wallpaper on the gallery walls that their sale would reveal. What would this country lose by having two pictures painted for the evil Philip II of Spain (Bloody Mary's husband) as renaissance chubby porn? It seems that the main reason for valuing the paintings is their over-inflated price and the fact that there are already plenty of other Titians in public galleries in this country. Strange how trainspotters and stamp-collectors can be mocked for their completeness fetishes yet Fine Art (it expects capitals like Opera and Ballet) loftily presumes that paintings are above the economic realities that govern the rest of the nation. The true significance of the works of art to the nation are that they were bought with money ultimately earned by underpaid farmhands and factory workers. So in a way, they are already the property of the nation by equitable right.
But the most annoying part of this story is that two years were wasted debating whether the NHS can afford drugs to treat wet age-related macular degeneration. How many people are now blind that can never see the two Titians? Hasn't the art world and the world in general got its values extremely wrong when freshly painted Lucian Freuds can fetch millions of quid yet people die in English hospitals of filth-related diseases? Ladies and Gentlemen, get your chequebooks and pens ready for Tracy Emin's Hospital Bed or a copy of Damian Hirst's Medicine Cabinet (with the very limited edition detergent and soap option).


Quiet_Man said...

They're Scottish paintings now, let them pay for it from the Barnett supplement.

William Gruff said...

Which nation should they be saved for? Sc*tland is a foreign country and nothing to do with my nation, except as an 'auld enemy'.

Let the Jocks pay for them.

Richard Havers said...

Quiet_man that's not technically true. They belong to a Scottish Duke. The plan is also to have the National Gallery in London co-own them. Not that I agree with the plan.