Down by the river; EXHIBITIONS

The Hayward used to be one of London's finest public galleries. Without a permanent director, or any clear direction, it's now a shadow of its former self. What is to be done?

We should all be concerned about the plight of the Hayward Gallery. It's a fine place for showing art. The building hasn't had much of a press since it opened in 1968, but people who have enjoyed exhibitions there know that the interior galleries are flexible enough to accommodate work of all sorts and to enhance the qualities of the art on display. The record of Hayward exhibitions includes retrospectives of such modern masters as Rodin, Renoir, Matisse, Picasso, etc, as well as shows devoted to the classic art of "Frescoes from Florence", Leonardo and Claude. The gallery has put on surveys of art from all over the world, and for years encouraged living British artists who might not otherwise have had the chance to exhibit on a grand scale.

All this is in danger. There is even talk that the Hayward might close. It has certainly been run down. Budgets are cut and the staff are in fear of redundancies. Above all, the exhibitions - without which the Hayward is nothing - are all disappointing. The fact is that the shows were better when organised by the old Arts Council, and that the decline of the Hayward began when control passed to the South Bank board in 1987. For a while, the same team (headed by ACGB veteran Joanna Drew) ran the gallery as before. Then, in 1992, Nicholas Snowman, chief executive of the South Bank, appointed Henry Meyric Hughes as director of the Hayward. Meyric Hughes (previously of the British Council) has many talents but no instinct for exhibitions. He should never have taken the job. Snowman accepted his resignation two months ago.

Both Snowman and Meyric Hughes have been silent about the debacle. The reticence is objectionable. For the Hayward of old felt for its public and responded to the art community. Ideas for shows came from good, imprecisely constituted, maybe over-large and certainly quarrelsome committees that included artists, critics, regional museum people and so on; and these committees were good precisely because they were so quarrelsome. They crackled with debate. And with proposals. For every 50 ideas put forward perhaps 10 were feasible as exhibitions. And then one or two materialised. But they were winners.

Today there's no such consultation. The people who chaired the committees - Lawrence Gowing, Bryan Robertson, David Sylvester - have no successors. No one associated with today's Hayward has their high distinction or international contacts. No wonder the gallery no longer brings in great exhibitions from abroad. As for the commitment to present-day British art - it has simply gone. The "Hayward Annuals", tremendously controversial and interesting, used to tell everyone what was going on. They were discontinued, with the weak excuse that they had done their work, and nothing has replaced them.

What is to be done? I expect they will bring in yet more management consultants. The crisis at the Hayward affects more than the visual arts because the gallery is part of the whole South Bank strategy. Would that it were "free- standing" and had its own trustees! But now the Hayward depends on the success of Richard Rogers' ambitious schemes for the South Bank, which would give the gallery the new service areas it badly requires. And the Rogers scheme depends on Lottery money. But would not the bid for Lottery funding be more effective if the South Bank showed more determination about the Hayward's future? The post of director won't even be advertised until the summer.

Last week the front runners for the job began to emerge, though no one yet has made a declaration. They include Susan Brades, the present acting director, known for her managerial capacities; Catherine Lampert of the Whitechapel Gallery, who has capably organised many Hayward shows; and David Elliott, who has spent 20 successful years building up the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford. But Elliott was pipped by Meyric Hughes last time round and may not apply again. Present favourite is Julia Peyton- Jones, renowned as a fund-raiser who has made the Serpentine Gallery into a showbusiness venue. Watch out for Teresa Gleadowe, who runs a trendy art-curating course at the RCA and lives with Tate director Nicholas Serota. Richard Cork, the establishment-minded critic of the Times, is also mentioned.

Such people are in their late forties or fifties. Younger curators are not attracted by the Hayward. Cannier by far, they think, to wait for the opportunities when the Tate expands to Bankside. This career-making among curators is a legacy of the Thatcher years and is not an attractive sight. Possibly a change of government might be helpful to the Hayward and art administration in general. Mark Fisher, shadow spokesman on the arts, says, "The Labour Party wants to see London as a centre of innovative contemporary art and the Hayward is central to that strategy." Then he adds, "but it does depend on the success of Richard Rogers' redesign". And so we're back to Lottery hopes. Meanwhile, the specific and immediate needs of the Hayward are not addressed.

Hayward Gallery, South Bank, SE1 (0171 960 4208).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off contestants line-up behind Sue and Mel in the Bake Off tent

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Mitch Winehouse is releasing a new album

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him

music
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event

film
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star