Gallery de­serves bet­ter buy pol­icy

Ottawa Citizen - - OPINION -

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 This is not a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar spend on a con­sult­ing study or tech­nol­ogy that will be out of date in two or three years.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


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