Julian Spalding, who has headed some of Britain's foremost public galleries, has laid down a gauntlet in a letter to the Tate director, challenging him to a public debate to justify why the art gallery has spent taxpayers’ money on a Hirst exhibition when the “works aren’t art”.
Three weeks ago, the senior museum figure delivered a stark condemnation of Damien Hirst and other contemporary “con artists”, urging collectors to “sell why they can” because his works are “worthless”.
Spalding, former head of Glasgow, Sheffield and Manchester museums, has written to Sir Nicholas Serota, the Tate director, spurred by an explosion of worldwide interest since The Independent published Spalding’s attack last month.
The letter, seen by The Independent, reads: “My serious allegation is that the exhibition of Hirst is a misuse of public funds because his works aren’t art. The immense support I have received …around the world demonstrates that this is… a widely-held public view.
“Public figures need to be accountable for their decisions in public. The bankers responsible for the credit collapse were. So I think you need to be for allowing a phoney avant-garde to become the establishment...”
The Tate declined to comment, saying only that Sir Nicholas was abroad.