Monday, November 10, 2008

Portrait Gallery Dead Again

The new Heritage Minister James Moore starts his tenure with a decision likely to dismay both the culture community and his own western constituencies. He's cancelling the National Portrait Gallery.

I was never averse to having this national gallery in a city other than Ottawa. The collection of cultural resources in Ottawa certainly adorns that city and gives it the gravitas a capital should have. But not every national institution must be in the capital. My concern was not with the gallery being outside Ottawa, but with the risk that the Conservatives' private funding model would provide us with a "national" institution that looked like a gimcrack hole-in-the-corner addendum to some commercial real estate speculation.

Now the government has rejected the commercial-sector bids as inadequate -- which to suggest those doubts were well-founded. And the developer's only response is to stress how cheap "his" national gallery would have been.

I'm open as to the location of the gallery, but not open on the principle that, wherever it is, it should be a national gallery worthy of the name.

And I spare a thought for old friends in the picture archive field, who have devoted careers to building, studying, sustaining the portrait collection, and will likely go on into retirement without ever seeing a proper facility being opened.
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