Many people in York have voiced their opinions about the reopened York Art Gallery – but what do the national art critics think?
One answer came this weekend, when a four-strong team from BBC Radio 4 show Saturday Review gave their opinion on the venue’s £8 million facelift.
Their verdict was mostly very positive, give or take the odd comparison to Ikea and kitchen crockery, and they asked the question – is it worth the controversial £7.50 entrance fee?
The discussion was chaired by presenter Tom Sutcliffe, and these were his panel…
Helen Lewis, deputy editor of political weekly the New Statesmen Ekow Eshun, writer Bidisha, broadcaster and journalist
So what did they think? Go here to hear the whole programme, or listen to the York discussion and read the highlights below.
On the building
I think it works beautifully. You walk in and you immediately feel like you’re in an open space that’s flooded with light and it’s quite church-like in a lot of ways.
The idea is that your attention and interest is drawn upwards, towards the light but also towards that great ceramic collection.
On the Centre For Ceramic Arts
I said to my partner on leaving, when I found out we were going to York, “why do I have to go for two hours on the train to look at crockery when I could walk into my kitchen?”
I don’t have the critical vocabulary to appreciate ceramics.
– Helen Lewis
The Centre for Ceramic Arts is fantastic – it’s beautiful…
I was really interested. You think about them as pieces of sculpture.
If you compare it to, for example, the ceramics rooms at the V&A, you see how successful York really is.
The V&A has a problem which is it feels extremely mercantile. You feel like you’re in a shop.
And at York you feel like you’re in a gallery.
On the room sets
[The room sets] in which the pottery is put out on mantlepieces and so on… I thought that in a way was the least successful because it just looked a bit like Ikea. The stuff is just too modern I think.
– Tom Sutcliffe
On the paintings
They’ve opened up their collection and they’re showing work that’s not just about regional Yorkshire.
They also seem to have quite a large collection of 17th century paintings, Dutch paintings, early Renaissance paintings. And that breadth of work really speaks very well.
I think that their painting collection is very patchy. You see a Canaletto, you see a Lowry, you see one Hogarth right up on the wall and you have to really struggle to find them, so it’s very variable.
On the Sarah Lucas
There’s a great Sarah Lucas – a sort of knot of tights, and it looks like it’s carved out of beige marble, but it’s not, it sort of looks like guts and it’s sexual.
That got a very good reaction as I was going around from a small boy, who I think reacted in a way that Sarah Lucas would have been thrilled by – it was total repulsion.
He virtually flinched away from it.
– Tom Sutcliffe
On the entrance fee
There’s been some controversy over the fact that they’re charging admission for adults – £7.50. I think children go in free.
But that’s always a subject that arouses debate.
It makes a really tough question: would you pay £7.50 to go in?
I think it’s a shame they have to charge but I think for any city to have a gallery that works really hard to reflect the artistic aspirations of that region – I think it’s an important space.