This week, I wandered through Britain's most exclusive art collection, the catacombs of the Tate Gallery, hidden behind solid anti-flood doors (the Thames is dangerously close), combination locks and security personnel. Within the storage racks are 2,000 or so paintings. I pulled out one rack and found a Gainsborough, a Stubbs and a Whistler.
I wandered there with Nicholas Serota, the Tate director, as he explained how the re-development of the Millbank site would allow a further 250 of these pictures from key figures in British art to take their place in the collection proper. There will be, he promised, a "thicker representation" of such people as Hogarth, Whistler and Barbara Hepworth - the artists the public love to see and constantly name as among their favourites. Currently, Mr Serota said, naming another public favourite "we are unable to show David Hockney on a regular basis".
Unable? Surely not. Unwilling, perhaps. The Tate could perfectly well have a Hockney room now. It just chooses not to. That is curatorial privilege. And even with 250 more pictures on show in the year 2001, subjective curatorial judgements will still prevail. …