Gallery attacked over 'capricious' decision to scrap art agency show

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The Independent Online

The show dedicated to the work of Locus+, a Newcastle-based agency which, like the Artangel organisation in London, has commissioned work from some of the country's best-known artists, was due to open in January.

But Richard Grayson, the curator hired to organise the exhibition and an accompanying history of Locus+'s work, yesterday condemned as "capricious" a sudden decision to scrap them without, he claimed, any explanation.

It follows a quick turnover of management at the gallery since it opened in July 2002. The founding director, Sune Nordgren, left less than a year after opening and his successor, Stephen Snoddy, who initiated the Locus+ show, also left after 11 months.

Peter Doroshenko was appointed director in April this year. It is understood the decision to cancel this exhibition was agreed at a board meeting this month.

Mr Grayson said the decision was particularly surprising given the importance of Locus+ in fostering art projects in the North-east long before the region became associated with prestige ventures such as Antony Gormley's Angel of the North or the Baltic itself.

"The nub of the thing is reneging on something that they initiated. This was an approach from Baltic, it wasn't Locus+ thinking, 'We must celebrate our history'," Mr Grayson said.

Baltic was providing some funding but the Arts Council was providing a significant contribution of £90,000 which is not being withdrawn. This may enable the show to tour to Belfast as planned.

Locus+, which was established in 1993, has worked with artists including Damien Hirst and was involved in Mark Wallinger's A Real Work of Art, in which a horse ran in the artist's registered colours in the 1994 flat season.

Yesterday, its most recent work, Ghost Ship by Chris Burden, arrived in Newcastle to coincide with the Tall Ships Race. A 28ft Shetland sailing boat was fitted with independent navigation to sail without a crew from Scotland as if it were a ghost ship.

It is understood that Baltic staff involved with developing the exhibition claimed deadlines were being missed. A Baltic spokesman said: "Unfortunately, it hasn't been possible to conclude discussions to allow Baltic to be part of this project ... Baltic looks forward to finding new projects which offer collaborative opportunities to work with Locus+."

A spokesman for Locus+ could not be contacted.