The Hugh Lane Gallery’s management needs to wake up

16 August, 2010

I was persuaded by reports of a new exhibition at The Hugh Lane Gallery (or to give it its revamped, clumsy, title the Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane) to cross the Liffey and investigate.

The exhibition, “Sir John Lavery: Passion and Politics” is probably worth a visit if you are interested in 20th Century Irish history, although, with very few exceptions, the paintings on display are not among the greatest works executed by Lavery.

My trip had a twofold purpose: as well as seeing the special Lavery exhibition, I wanted to re-acquaint myself with the gallery’s permanent collection. I was keen to do this as I hadn’t been there for many years, and a revamp had been carried out in the meantime, including the installation of Francis Bacon’s Studio.

I was bitterly disappointed to discover that large chunks of the permanent collection were closed to the public. It seems that the Hugh Lane Gallery can’t afford sufficient staff to open all the rooms. Foreign visitors were perplexed to find that their journey to Parnell Square was largely in vain (most of them were, after all, only slightly interested in Sir John Lavery).

This is a pretty disgraceful state of affairs, particularly at the height of the tourist season, and seems to me to be another example of public sector torpor and mismanagement. For instance, why cannot the gallery’s management re-arrange the opening hours and staff rosters, so that the full collection can be on show, albeit for a reduced number of hours in the week?  Or why don’t they take on volunteers or students for the summer months to allow our foreign visitors full access to what the guide books promise them? Or even, dare I say it, charge a modest admission fee to the gallery to pay for the necessary additional staff?

These are not insuperable problems. The present “solution” to staff shortages is the worst outcome for everybody.

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