David Lister: Art galleries should be like cinemas – open to audiences every night of the week

The Week in Arts

Share

When Neil MacGregor was head of the National Gallery, and there were threats that public galleries might have to sell pictures, he rightly made play of the fact that the paintings there belong to the nation.

"They are not my pictures," he once said to me. "They are yours." I replied: "Thanks, in that case I'd like to come and see them next Thursday evening."

I was reminded of that conversation with the opening of the Leonardo blockbuster at the venue, and the difficulties of physically accommodating all the people who want to see the exhibition. The answer is simple, and it should be applied not just to blockbuster exhibitions. Art galleries should open at night. Every night.

Why should this be a radical suggestion? Every other art form is on at night. It would be preposterous if cinemas were showing films only in daylight hours. Why do art galleries persist in thinking that everyone can take time off work to visit in office hours?

Of course, art gallery managements will answer that they do already open at night. For Leonardo, the National Gallery is opening late on Fridays and Saturdays. Some other galleries also open late at the weekends, or for part of the weekends. But why stop there? Why should visiting a gallery, for many of us, have to be a weekend-only activity? An added irony is that many galleries, not least the National, now have excellent restaurants. You just can't have dinner there.

I had a look at the opening times for the Tate and its various outposts. Tate Modern is open late on Fridays and Saturdays. Tate Britain is open late only on Fridays. Tate Liverpool closes every day at the slightly odd time of 4.50pm. Tate St Ives closes every day at the equally odd time of 5.20pm. So, there you have it. In south-east London, they like a good Saturday night out at the art gallery; over the river at Tate Britain, they can stir themselves for a fun night out at the gallery only on Fridays. In Liverpool and St Ives, it seems they stay home every night.

I just don't believe art gallery-goers vary so much in different parts of the country or in different parts of London. Nor do I believe that lovers of international contemporary art are more adventurous on a Saturday night than lovers of British art. Art galleries should be like cinemas, theatres and opera houses. They should open at the most socially convenient hours, nationwide.

For Leonardo, the National Gallery will indeed open every night – but only in the last two weeks of the exhibition in January. So it can be done. What is stopping the National Gallery and every other big gallery from doing it all year round? If the problem is the cost of wages for warders and other staff, then why not close two mornings a week? Surely it's worth that small sacrifice for galleries to enable people to visit in the evenings, show that seeing art can be a good night out, and come into the 21st century.

Changes could be afoot at iTunes

Fresh from giving his thought-provoking John Peel lecture, urging iTunes to put some money into funding young musicians, The Who's Pete Townshend this week gave an intimate gig (and an intimate pie and mash dinner) in his boyhood locale of Shepherd's Bush to launch an excellent, remastered edition of the band's seminal album Quadrophenia. I cornered Pete to ask him if iTunes was keeping loftily silent after his well-publicised attack. Surprisingly, it seems that iTunes has, in fact, contacted him and wants to meet, so there might be good news coming for young artists. Pete also told me that iTunes informed him that it was much easier for the company to meet him now that Steve Jobs was no longer alive. Was the late Apple boss a Rolling Stones man?

The boy has got what it takes

Every week on The X Factor, one of the judges says as the ultimate accolade to a contestant: "You could be a pop star!" This week, Frankie Cocozza was axed from the show after the teenager allegedly confessed to cocaine use. He later admitted: "My life during the show has gone out of control, and my behaviour off stage has overstepped the rules of the competition."

Drugs, overstepping the rules, a life that is out of control – surely these are the basic criteria for being a pop star. Back in the day, Pete Townshend would have probably signed young Frankie up for The Who on the spot.

d.lister@independent.co.uk / twitter.com/davidlister1

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Learning Support Assistant vacancy in Penarth

£55 - £65 per day + Travel Scheme and Free Training: Randstad Education Cardif...

Key stage 1 and 2 teachers required for the Vale of Glamorgan

£90 - £110 per day + Travel Scheme & Free Training: Randstad Education Cardiff...

Foundation Phase Teacher required

£90 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Exciting opputunities availabl...

Learning Support Assistant

£65 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Due to the continual growth and...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Prime Minister David Cameron walks on stage to speak at The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) annual conference on November 4, 2013  

Does Cameron really believe in 'British Values'?

Temi Ogunye
The Lada became a symbol of Russia’s failure to keep up with Western economies  

Our sanctions will not cripple Russia. It is doing a lot of the dirty work itself

Hamish McRae
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
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz