In the future, when people are wondering whether they ‘like’ that cyclopean mass of concrete, the Hayward Gallery, or how they can endure the dictates of British Gaullism, or whether they love that faithful wing of it that is charged with cultural governance, I hope they will remember the successive anxiety, bafflement, reassurance, and ultimate aesthetic conciliation, which chased one another across their hearts in this cold spring of 1984. They should think of the sensation, as if of coming home, of the enormously affecting rediscovery, in the concrete gallery, of the beauty – itself both gigantic and delicately faithful – of English Romanesque.
[*] English Romanesque Art 1066-1200(Weidenfeld, 416 pp., £19.95 and £10.95, 23 March, 0 297 78412 9). The exhibition closes on 8 July. The Glory of the Garden was published on 30 March by the Arts Council.
Vol. 6 No. 9 · 17 May 1984
SIR: Lawrence Gowing’s relief at the mildness of the Arts Council’s purgative draught has overstimulated him (LRB, 19 April). The Romanesque exhibition is splendid, as he says, but two exhibitions of Oriental rugs and carpets had already proved that the Hayward Gallery was, as an exhibition space at least, too swiftly denigrated. Moreover, while the activities of the Serpentine Gallery are worth fighting for, Gowing’s advance puff for the Caro exhibition will give pause to the many who have heard, in the chatter which rose when the bomb had exploded with less loss of cultural life than expected, more relief at the shoring-up of a hermetic sensibility than concern for the generality of intelligent gallery-goers. This point only seems worth making because Gowing’s plea for evening-institute drawing classes is a reminder of a more broadly based interest in picture-making. Surely the threat of a cut in public funding might have led a teacher and painter of Gowing’s abilities and stature to be a little less bland in his implied affirmation of the health of English art.