Friday, 7 August 2009

Seriously, Southampton Art Gallery, what are you thinking?

Being from Southampton is a strange burden. On the whole it can look like a pretty shitty place, full of small minded bigots, ketamine fuckheads, bad retail and worse memories.

However, the further away you get, both physically and chronologically, a certain nostalgia seems to set in. If you read Owen Hatherley's blog, you'll notice that a certain wistful tone worms its way in when he writes about Shirley High Street. Southampton has nice parks, at times ace charity shops and a Waitrose right near my parent's house. Ah, Portswood. It also has a somewhat kick arse art gallery.

Southampton Art Gallery, in both its building and its collection, is certainly the jewel in what can be considered the rather rusty crown of that dilapidated port town. It's collection is both varied and comprehensive. From my childhood visits everything I understand and love about art stems. There is not a thought or feeling I have in relation to art that can not be traced back to the place. Beyond what I experienced in my home, beyond what I was shown by my artist mother, Southampton Art Gallery is what I model my relation with all other institutions. I'm not saying its right, or useful, but it's frankly the truth.

That is why I'm distressed and pissed off when I discovered that Southampton Art Gallery is intending to sell off some of it's collection to fund a shitty heritage museum. Fuckit, they'll probably call it a Local History Family Experience Centre, or something else equally twee and meaningless! It's not a case of "robbing Peter to pay Paul"; the inevitable editing and re-presentation of Southampton's history, almost certainly coupled with stultifying didacticism, could never equal the value and immediate personal impact that those lost works of art could deliver.

Southampton needs an identity beyond West Quay, the Saints and the Titanic. As well as setting a dangerous precedent for regional collections throughout Britain, it undermines any cultural ambition that Southampton could ever hope to foster.

As usual, Jonathan 'intellectual hunk' Jones says it better -

If you one of those who believe in the possibilities of democracy, sign the petition -

Yours sincerely,

Appalled in Rusholme

P.S. If anyone from Southampton Art Gallery is reading this, you seriously need a better website.


owen hatherley said...

Shirley High Street is much better than Rusholme.

Meredydd said...

You may have heard, if not you'll be deligthed to know, that the decision to sell the art off was ultimately kicked into the long grass.

Thank god.

As for Southampton breeding nostalgia, nostalgia is always to be resisted. However, Southampton, even as a resident, can breed affection. It simply is what it is, and makes no pretence to be anything else.