LETTER:Why art galleries deserve respect

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The Independent Online
From Mr Peter Osborne

Sir: As owner of a West End art gallery, I read Jonathan Glancey's article ("Art galleries: dontcha hate 'em?", 21 March) with an increasing sense of despair. His description of West End galleries and their staff resurrects the well-worn stereotypes in an attempt to portray some kind of conscious litism and class-distinction in our trade.

We are retailers; employees of art galleries sell pictures to earn a living. Their premises are open to the public free of charge and a great effort is made to keep smiling and co-operative. Business is not so good that staff can afford to be standoffish and the notion that galleries are populated by snotty Sloanes passing a few daylight hours in idle employment is ridiculous and insulting. Most of the galleries that I know are run by tough entrepreneurs who would not tolerate such people for a second, nor, for that matter, would their colleagues.

Mr Glancey also criticises the interior of our galleries as "shopfitting", rather than architecture. I run a shop and have certainly fitted it out with white walls and wooden floors, both practical and intended to allow the artworks to dominate the space rather than the other way round.

There seems to be a special, almost cruel source of vitriol reserved for attacks on contemporary art galleries. I notice that he avoids criticising the Old Master galleries, where, I dare say, a much larger proportion of the kind of staff he so dislikes will be found.

Yours sincerely,


Berkeley Square Gallery

London, W1

23 March