Gallery deserves better buy policy
Re: Gallery mystery solved, April 12.
The real mystery as to why the National Gallery is flogging an impressive painting by Marc Chagall to free up funds for a work by JacquesLouis David is not the identity of the work they’re chasing (now confirmed); it’s why our country’s major art institution is reduced to selling off one major asset to buy another.
An annual budget of $8 million for acquisitions strikes me as inadequate for a national organization. Have a look at the prices worldwide for significant pieces of art by well-known artists. I’m all for frugal government spending but I’m also an arts supporter.
More importantly, it’s not like the gallery is “spending ” the money and it’s gone. This is not a multimillion-dollar spend on a consulting study or technology that will be out of date in two or three years. The gallery is gaining an important asset on behalf of Canadians and, surprise, assets like these paintings “go up in value over time.”
Shouldn’t there be a special policy in place for situations like these, when gallery executives could make a detailed recommendation to the federal government for funds to cover one-time, unique purchases? Simply giving the gallery money on an annual basis and saying “Here, you figure out what to do but don’t ask for more” may be a reasonable fiscal decision but it shows a complete lack of understanding of the art market. It also chains the gallery to an arbitrary budget figure that looks good on the surface but in all likelihood severely limits its acquisitions ability.
Give the gallery the resources, on all fronts, to seriously act like a national institution. Let it be known to the art world at large that Canadians take their art seriously and have the resources and mandate to act when the time and the opportunity arise.
Shaun Markey, Ottawa