Cries & whispers

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The Independent Culture
IN AN attempt to make itself more attractive, or less of a monstrosity, the Barbican Centre has embarked upon a refurbishment costing no less than pounds 9.7m. Pentagram, the classy book designer, is in charge; its man Frank Kelly has been heard saying that the place had 'started to look a bit dingy'. If he can remember it looking otherwise, he has a better memory than me. Anyway, the first fruits of the redesign are upon us: a mural in the foyer (above). Brushstrokes in the shape of circles cover swathes of wall in garish blue, pink, yellow and green. Clearly, pointillism is back. The point is less clear.

Theo Crosby, the architect responsible, said he wanted the mural to be 'a little bit mysterious'. What is mysterious is why pounds 150,000 has been spent on a large-scale work which even Crosby himself describes as 'not intended to be vastly great art'. The aim was to create an atmosphere that was calm and spacious, 'striking and different', but the result is simply imposing. Does anyone believe the halogen lighting proposed for the mural will contribute to a restful ambience? And why isn't it meant to be art? The Barbican is an arts centre, not a DIY store. I'm sure many artists would relish the prospect of a permanent wall space, not to mention the pounds 150,000; but I gather this was not even considered. As one member of staff says, 'personally, it gives me a migraine'.

STAYING with our theme, I found myself last week in St Ives, where the new Tate Gallery was celebrating its first birthday. There is much to celebrate. Attendances are higher than projected, trade is up in the whole town - good news for cream-clotters - and as you go round the air is free from the restlessness that public galleries are apt to induce. The premises are small and stylish. You learn a lot about the St Ives group in a short time. And there is one fine commission, Patrick Heron's bold stained- glass window. Only one thing is missing - great art.

If a gallery is called the Tate, rather than the St Ives Art Gallery, it should display some of the treasures of the Tate's collection. Tate St Ives is very good at showing art that comes from the area to people who don't. It makes no attempt to show art that doesn't come from the area to people who do. Even to the untrained eye, Heron's window betrays the influence of Matisse. The Tate has a number of Matisses. As things stand, they will never reach the Tate St Ives. If I lived in the West Country, I'd be quite disappointed by this.

And now - to judge by my post-bag - the moment you've all been waiting for: The Arts Clerihew, a recently introduced weekly feature. This week's pounds 5 winner is Pippa Legg of Lyndhurst, Hampshire, who offers the following:


Hasn't been the same since

He stopped singing about *@]?*%]@

And changed his name to

(Photograph omitted)