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).

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment
Fake Banksy stencil given to artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth

art

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
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.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee