Who Is To Blame For The National Gallery Strike?
- Lily Groom
My mum worked at the National Gallery on the information desk for ten years. That – along with her degree in art history – has allowed me to visit a lot of galleries and I know more about the Pre-Raphaelites and the Romantics than I will ever need. The National Gallery has always had a place in my heart – it represents all that is good about my wonderful city: free attractions, amazing amounts of history, and my mum.
In my household, when the news of the removal of the Information Desk was revealed, it came as a shock. It was always staffed by people who knew exactly what they were talking about, and could give you information on pretty much everything in the museum, which is amazing given that they have over 2000 permanent exhibits, not including the ever-changing exhibitions. Why would you get rid of something so enormously useful? It provided information for lost tourists, curious visitors, and others for decades.
Outsourcing to Securitas the security service, dealing with the public and providing information is the latest in a long line of injustices. Workers who have guarded priceless works for decades could be moved to guard other areas that Securitas work in, such as airports and offices. You wouldn’t make a theoretical physicist become a medical doctor. This is pretty much the same thing.
“What I’m saying is, if they can ruin the National so easily, what will they f*** up next?”
Moreover, people who are unhappy with the outsourcing could leave, leading to Securitas bringing in employees with little to no knowledge of the priceless works they are working with. Our art is our cultural history. You need to understand the context and history behind it in order to fully understand both the piece, and our national and global history. Bringing in people with little knowledge would impact hundreds of thousands of visitors a year, who are curious and aren’t being provided answers that they need.
I recently returned from a trip to America, and went to see the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, or the LACMA. It was brilliant – massive, sunny, packed with loads of art from around the world including the likes of David Hockney, Picasso and Frida Kahlo. But it cost $15 for adults to enter! As someone who has grown up with art being on offer for free my whole life, paying for it seems absurd.
Art and culture should be available for free to everyone who wants to see it. People who otherwise would not have access to some of the world’s most significant works, could discover something they never dreamed about, or develop a new passion.
The privatisation of the National Gallery, the removal of workers who had been there for years, the ignoring of the unions opinions are all due to one thing: the government cuts to arts in the economy, while they continue to favour the rich with tax breaks.
If the gallery has less money, cuts will need to be made – outsourcing being the result. If the Tories can manage to grind a national institution to such a halt, what does that mean for other government funded areas? If they can take such liberties with an establishment that has been present for nearly 200 years, what will they do with the relatively younger NHS? What I’m saying is, if they can ruin the National so easily, what will they f*** up next?