What tangled textiles we weave

arts notebook
  • @davidlister1
There's something about the decorative arts that have the effect of a full moon on those that run them. Take the Victoria and Albert Museum. When Roy Strong was director he kept and latterly published diaries exposing curatorial baronies that would have shocked the mediaeval Turkish court. Elizabeth Esteve-Coll, his successor, whom I always found thoughtful and committed, managed to unite half the museums world in an alliance against her for a time. And now her successor Alan Borg has succumbed to textile fatigue syndrome.

Dr Borg has made a conspicuously bold start at the V & A, launching and this week relaunching the Liebeskind Boilerhouse extension which should take away the V & A's stigma of being the only major London museum yet to get a lottery award. But discussing it with him over breakfast this week, he started to show signs of what we must now refer to as TFS.

Despite increased visitor numbers, the signs of depression were upon him. "People don't really like the decorative arts," he mused. "They prefer their art flat on a wall." This is a curious proposition to hear from the director of the world's most famous museum of the decorative arts. But over the croissants, his mood grew yet more depressive. "Besides," he said, "we are in the wrong location." South Kensington, known throughout Britain and arguably Europe as home to the great national museums, does not immediately strike one as the wrong end of town. But Dr Borg was adamant. "To be central would be better." And he quoted an adage from 1857 about how far it was to get to the museum from London. Yes, but 140 years ago, Kensington was a village and you needed a jolly fit horse to take you there. Surely things have changed? He was unmoved. Wrong location, he continued to muse. Textiles do this do a man.

Jeremy Thomas, chairman of the British Film Institute and Wilf Stevenson, his chief executive, are both stepping down from office. Thomas, already an Academy Award-winning producer, is to fulfill a lifelong ambition to direct movies. At the advanced age of 46, he is making his debut behind camera on a new thriller All The Little Animals, starring John Hurt, Daniel Benzali and Christian Bale. We have yet to see what Mr Thomas's directing style will be. Perhaps it will be influenced by the last film he produced, a little arthouse number called Crash. In which case, call the RSPCA.

The arts minister, Mark Fisher, "played" Glastonbury last night. His brief was to tell the audience how much New Labour supports the music industry. This was ill-judged. The last thing Glastonbury-goers consider themselves to be is part of an industry. This is the anti-industry, apolitical festival, an opt-out lifestyle either in reality for the few New Age travellers there, or in fantasy for the middle managers taking a weekend break from conformity. To be reminded that they are just cogs in a machine oiling the bank balances of record companies, agents and promoters, must have made them want to hurl mud packs at the well-meaning Mr Fisher.

Photocalls to plug a new show are commonplace. Normally, though, they don't cost almost as much as the show itself. Next week, to plug the opening of the Kander-Ebb musical, Chicago, in London in October, the producers of the Tony Award-winning show are bringing the entire cast across, plus orchestra, and not just to pose for pictures. They are going to perform the show. One insider estimates the cost of all this to be around pounds 200,000. The objective is to sell tickets. I estimate they will have to sell 10,000 just to cover the cost of the photocall. There's no business like...