Magazine article The Spectator

Virginia in Wonderland

Magazine article The Spectator

Virginia in Wonderland

Article excerpt

I have long been intrigued by Jung's theory of synchronicity - the attempt to explain the significance of the relationship between certain happenings which, on the face of it, have no obvious links. Take the events of last week, for instance. Who would have thought there could have been the remotest possible connection between the 29-year-old Glaswegian artist Douglas Gordon, winner of the 20,000 Turner Prize at the Tate Gallery, and the Heritage Secretary Virginia Bottomley. But unbeknown to either of them, they displayed an absolute meeting of minds, two hearts beating as one. Jung would have been enchanted.

First of all it was Mrs Bottomley's turn to join Alice in Wonderland and stand the truth on its head with her description of her standstill annual grant to the Arts Council - a loss in real terms of more than 5 million - as an increase of more than 3 million. Her bizarre reasoning was that because she had originally threatened a 32 million cut, but had not actually administered it, the loss therefore became an increase. Substitute Virginia for Alice and you get:

`You are young, Ginny dear,' it was Elsie who spoke,

`You are truthful and nice and polite,

`But such nonsense you spoke ever since you awoke,

`Are you sure you are feeling all right?'

As madness was clearly in the air and the aforementioned synchronicity at work, up popped the Scotsman Douglas Gordon with his distorted videos and his wall text at the Tate Gallery: `New is old, past is future, right is left, wrong is right, love is hate, lunacy is sanity...' and so on. More than 100 paradoxical hypotheses designed to challenge and disorientate the reader. The jury, chaired by the Tate's Director, Nicholas Serota, praised Gordon's `engagement with profound issues of memory, psychological division and moral ambiguity'. Or might they have been talking about Mrs Bottomley at that point? Professor Jung could have explained.

But with so much uncertainty being felt last week, what a delight this week to have the absolute no-nonsense gesture of Sir Denis Mahon bequeathing his collection of Italian Old Masters to the nation. And how exciting to see someone with enough courage and clout putting a gun to the Government's head - he actually described it more colourfully as holding the Sword of Damocles over the Government's head. His threat was simple and direct: fund museums and galleries properly so that they do not have to sell off exhibits to survive or his bequest of his unrivalled collection of 17th-century Italian baroque paintings would be forfeited. …

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