The National Gallery and the National Gallery of Scotland, suddenly thrown into panic by the Duke of Sutherland’s inevitable decision to sell Titian’s Diana and Actaeon, have not chosen a great time to try and raise £50m from, frankly, anyone who can stump up some cash. The year 2008 will always associated with a downward graph showing some vertiginous descents – a year when money evaporated. There is no jangle of spare cash for art.
And yet public opinion towards the gallery’s begging bowl has been, on the whole, largely positive. There have been the usual discussions in newspapers and television shows, as well as blogs and websites, and the expected comments about wasting-money-on-art-when-there-are-sick-children-to-be-cured-has-surfaced. But £10 notes continue to be stuffed into the boxes at the National Gallery.
In particular, the UK tabloid newspapers, generally accepted as the voice of the man in the street, have, in their own way, been supportive of the so-called Titian Campaign. One would expect a instinctive anti-elitism to kick in – the tabloid newspapers are usually the loudest voice to articulate the common sense pragmatism that is outraged when would see museums receive money instead of hospitals, and regards both old master and avant-garde art as elitist pretension wrapped up in the emperor’s new clothes.
Instead, the Daily Mirror happily showed the inventive recreation (commissioned by the Beeb I think) by the photographer Tom Hunter, and made some cheerful marks about the nudity on show with a typical red-top headline, ‘Nice Titians’.
The Sun made its lo-fi version of Diana and Actaeon, tailored to suit its readership
A connoisseur may splutter about the irreverence – but it’s harmless stuff – and a million miles away from much more damaging headlines, e.g. ‘Arrogant art critics demand £50m during credit crunch’ or ‘Money diverted from dwindling health budget to pay rich aristocrat’ etc etc.
Does this reflect a change in dynamics of class and culture in Britain? Or are there some very bright people working in the Titian Campaign’s marketing office? Or is just the chance to embrace some gratuitous nudity (something the tabloids have been doing for years)?