By Jeff Sawtell in Britain:
Friday 9th January 2015
National Gallery (PG)
Directed by Frederick Wiseman
THE NATIONAL Gallery in the centre of London is one of the more prized attractions in the nation’s family jewels.
Apart from its amazing collection of European paintings, it provides invaluable educational opportunities and training in the tricks of the trade.
And it provides a magnificent backdrop for Trafalgar Square, a place where generations have given vent to their political angst.
No wonder it’s increasingly being exploited by capitalist companies to promote their products through patronage. In fact, it’s a prime site to promote the notion of privatisation being championed by our ruling parasites.
This latter emphasis becomes increasingly obvious as you watch Frederick Wiseman’s three-hour documentary transform into a stylish commercial.
It’s packed with magnificent images alongside experts explaining that, unlike film, the narrative of paintings cannot be encapsulated in time, thus allowing for subjective interpretation.
Hence the appreciation of art’s cultural context is akin to tracing history from medieval icons illuminated by candles to the electric light of the industrial revolution.
There’s so much to enjoy, not least the conditions and craft of the art works’ conception to their commentary on class culture.
All aficionados of the gallery have their favourites, only to make the occasional detour because it’s free. Canvasses by Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Turner and Seurat’s workers enjoying a day on the Seine can all lift the spirits if you’re feeling down.
There are also insights into advances in preservation and imaginative attempts to reach a wider public, not least the visually challenged.
Yet despite its attempts at popularism, the film’s elitist tone is set by the enthusiasts and executives with Oxbridge accents. With such a wealth of material, what they purvey are tasters for what comes across as a tourist supermarket.
Thus National Gallery is a virtual version of the reality of trekking round most museums. You simply tire of the information overload and can’t wait to get out and breathe in some fresh air.
STAFF at the world-renowned National Gallery in London are balloting on strike action, their union PCS revealed yesterday. The union is resisting plans to outsource the museum’s staff. Senior managers have also reneged on a promise to introduce the London living wage, meaning the institution is the only major museum or gallery in the capital that does not pay the living rate: here.
STAFF at the National Gallery voted to go on strike yesterday in a row over the privatisation of services: here.