Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Where's the Romance? Propaganda: David Hockney's We Two Boys Together Clinging, an Angry Protest Piece

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Where's the Romance? Propaganda: David Hockney's We Two Boys Together Clinging, an Angry Protest Piece

Article excerpt

Byline: BRIAN SEWELL

Love Sunley Room, National Gallery *

TO keep sweet the politicians who determine the annual grants and subsidies on which it depends, the National Gallery has over the past few years sent six travelling exhibitions to Bristol and Newcastle, drawn largely from its own collections but supplemented with pictures from the two host cities, and a handful from other sources.

This year, the seventh and, hopefully, the last is titled Love.

Such travelling shows must have a title, no matter how specious, for no better reason than the PR departments of the galleries involved must have a tool with which to attract punters. Love will no doubt sow hopes of nudes and copulation and excite anticipation in the visitors.

The title also enables the curators to wrestle every picture into the overall theme, even if it is essentially a landscape or interior, a Christian saint, an eastern goddess or a bunch of flowers.

In such a case as this, readers of the exhibition catalogue must remember that the curatorial business is carried out by officials at the bottom of the heap, the gallery's deputy assistant sidekicks cutting their teeth on casuistry.

The catalogue of Love was written, a man of 70 might suppose, by two small girls of seven.

Love "is at once simple and complex", they begin. "It is instinctive but inexplicable," they continue, "it brings both sadness and joy." The sane reader suspects that the girls have cribbed this from a manual on sex published in 1935 but it is just the poor things struggling to identify a common reason for exhibiting Vermeer's Young Woman at the Virginals with David Hockney's We Two Boys Together

Clinging, and Grayson Perry's ceramic rabbit (surely a hare?) with Murillo's Infant Baptist embracing the lamb.

These exhibits raise another political point in that Labour ministers of culture share the conviction that, if the young are to be drawn into an interest in old art, it must be mixed with new. …

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