Blog has moved, redirecting you to the new blog...

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Paying the Price for Post-Modernism

I went to see the Post-Modernism exhibition at the V&A yesterday.  It was great.  So much fun to be had with a teapot, and David Byrne’s actual big suit.  Post Modernism is one of those terms I’ve never quite felt comfortable using, like abstruse, and existential, and neo-platonic, so I thought the exhibition would help. 

I was a bit vexed about the charging.  It’s reasonable to pay for special exhibitions, especially when the rest of the museum is free.  And £11 for a full ticket is not cheap – a bit more than a peak time movie ticket with extra 3D specs, or a latte for yourself and 3.23 of your friends -  but there are concessions available if you happen to be a student, or young, or old or disabled (though not, sadly, if you're just broke, which most of us are at the moment). 

But they don’t ask you for £11, they ask you for £12.50, recovering the tax relief on the extra as a donation.  V&A will have done the sums.  More people will be inclined to pay a small extra donation on a hefty ticket price, than a hefty donation on a lower ticket price, so that’s what they’ve plumped for.  But I thought it was a bit of a cheek, especially as you can’t get a sandwich there for much under a fiver.
I absolutely love that many of our museums and art galleries are free. It means that these amazing places are crowded out with kids (this is half term) which is brilliant for our cultural education.  It also means you can pop in and have a look at a small part, without feeling you have to traipse right round to get your money's worth.  Everyone can.
This isn't possible in Paris, where hardly anything is free.  Nor in Rome, which is also expensive.  Nor in New York.  Except at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  This place has a good system.  They ask you for a voluntary contribution of $25.  They make it sound like a fixed price but the truth is you can get in for anything, so long as it's money. 
I chose not to pay the full amount to the Met, partly because I thought $25 was a bit stiff, partly because I intended to make several visits, and partly because we invite Americans to pop into Tate Britian, Tate Modern, the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, the British Museum, the V&A, the Science Museum, the National History Museum, and hundreds more for absolutely nothing. 

This would be a good system for our museums.  Instead of a limp notice suggesting a donation of £3 with a perspex box full of foreign bank notes underneath, why not get everyone to pay something, a penny or a hundred quid, each reaching into their conscience, no judgement attached, tax relief on the whole lot if appropriate?

I'm not going to say how much I paid to the Met, just suffice to say it was my reverse Boston Tea party, let’s call it the 82nd Street Coffee Break.  But does it count as post-modern?

Monday, 10 October 2011

How to visit your daughter in university halls

The best advice is - don't.  Don't, unless you didn't actually drop her off there, and want to be able to imagine the place.  Or unless she begs you to visit.  Or she's forgotten something both heavy and so valuable.  These are the only reasons to go.

If, like me, you didn't get this advice in time, and, like me, had booked tickets to see Othello at the Crucible on her third weekend, then here are some supplementary codes which must be adhered to at all times:

1.  Don't insist on going to her room, especially if she's showing signs of reluctance.  You can probably conduct all necessary transactions in the corridor.

2.  If you are invited in it's best not to say:

      a)  don't you have access to a Hoover?
      b)  wouldn't it be a good idea to hang up some of these clothes?
      c)  isn't there anywhere you can empty this bin?
      d)  isn't that the candlewick bedspread out of the spare room?

3.  If she introduces you to her housemates, treat this as the honour it is, and remember:

     i)   for the first time ever, you are on her turf.  She might not have completely got the hang of how to treat a guest, especially a middle aged one with parental issues, but nevertheless, she is in charge;

     ii)  no one will be interested in what university life was like thirty years ago so don't even think of comparing it; 

     iii) don't offer any advice, however tempting - not about making the most of the opportunities, managing finances, getting essays in on time, eating healthily, getting some exercise, not doing drugs, not drinking too much - NOTHING.

4.  And lastly, if they tell you they're having a roast chicken tomorrow night, with Yorkshire puddings, don't explain Yorkshires go with beef, as does English mustard.  They make the rules now.  You are not-very-interesting history.