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
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jude Law in Black Sea

film

In Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before

Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops

film

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
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.

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game