David Lister: Hirst's £250k (gift)

Related Topics

There's no need for me to comment on the quality of Damien Hirst's new paintings at London's Wallace Collection. The art critics have delivered their verdict (see Performance Notes below) and it's a damning one. Anyway, I'm rather more interested in – and worried by – what went on behind the scenes to get this particular show on the road. What worries me is the £250,000 that Hirst gave from his own large pockets to the Wallace Collection.

Now, some of this money, it's true, has gone towards the marketing of the show and keeping it free to visitors. And some was spent on changes to the room in which the paintings were exhibited, and some of those changes were specifically for those paintings, and only temporary alterations. For example, £60,000 of the £250,000 went on wall silks, made in Prelles where Marie Antoinette had her wall silks made. They are a backdrop to the Hirst paintings, and such purchases can be seen as part of the installation. You could argue that these costs were, strictly speaking, part of his work, just as the frames around the paintings, or the materials used to execute the paintings. You could hardly expect the Wallace Collection to pay for all that. When the Hirst show departs, so will those expensive extras.

But other changes in the gallery, paid for from the Hirst fortune, are certainly not temporary. For example, he has paid for the refurbishment of the floor, taking off the dark varnish, cleaning, and putting down light varnish. This change is not temporary. In addition, he has paid for gold gilding on the ceiling of the gallery. This change is also not temporary.

It may well have been Hirst's wish to make these changes to enhance the viewing experience for visitors to his exhibition. But when the exhibition closes, substantial changes to the gallery will remain. A permanent improvement to the Wallace Collection building has been paid for by one D Hirst.

So, let's spell it out. The Wallace Collection has accepted a gift of £250,000 for changes to its gallery – some of them remaining in perpetuity – from an artist mounting an exhibition in the gallery, an exhibition which is panned by the critics, most of whom wonder why on earth the Wallace Collection put it on.

I don't for a minute think that Ros Savill, the distinguished director of this distinguished institution, was influenced by the £250,000 in her decision to stage the exhibition of Damien Hirst paintings. But I do think that other artists without £250,000 to spare might feel at a disadvantage in getting an exhibition on at the Wallace Collection. And I do think that Ms Savill has set a most unfortunate, and slightly dangerous, precedent in allowing a financial gift from an artist about to show his works, presumably on merit.

It might only be a perception that there is any sort of link here. But perceptions are important. The Wallace Collection is one of Britain's most distinguished institutions. But this is not a particularly distinguished moment in its history.

A right royal performance

The audience at a performance of War Horse in London's West End was getting ready to enjoy the performance earlier this week when, just before curtain up, the Queen tiptoed in with Prince Philip and joined them. It wasn't an official visit. A Buckingham Palace spokesman said that the Queen does pop to the theatre unannounced from time to time.

That's rather heart-warming, but it does call for a different "performance" from the audience, and a change in the usual theatre-going conversation and etiquette. No weary sighs as this couple push past you to their seats. No interval chit-chat along the lines of "Who on earth allowed this bloke to become Prime Minister anyway?". The usual complaint of "Parking's so difficult in the West End now" would probably get a blank stare. And, it would be a brave man or woman who turned round in the interval and said: "I hope you don't mind me asking, but how much did you pay for your tickets?"

If only all prisons were like Slade

Sir David Attenborough has been lamenting the fact that the BBC does not make programmes like Porridge any more. The BBC's veteran broadcaster and naturalist said: "It entertained and educated, gave you insight into psychology and current affairs, and was the greatest programme we've ever seen."

Now, I feel affectionate about Porridge, and like the rest of the population, I am an admirer of Sir David Attenborough. I'm also an admirer of Porridge's writers Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais and its star, the late Ronnie Barker. Gosh, there are a lot of saintly people to try not to offend here. But "educational"? That's taking sentiment a little too far.

Clement and La Frenais are two of the best comedy of writers of all time, but to learn about prison life it might be best to look elsewhere. Timid, bumbling prison officers like Mr Barraclough are rather thin on the ground, to take just one example. And even in the 1970s, the prison population was not 99 per cent white, to take another. Sir David has let nostalgia get the better of him.

React Now

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

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ice skating in George Square, Glasgow  

How many Christmas cards have you sent this year?

Simon Kelner

Al-Sweady Inquiry: An exercise in greed that blights the lives of brave soldiers

Richard Kemp
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum