More Versailles at NGA

the NGA and being silly

This post is a follow-up to the former review:

While the general awareness marketing of this exhibition was very good – you could not have missed the notices – the general concept was flawed. The idea of marketing an experience of the Versailles palace and grounds was always going to be problematic.

The National Gallery has a reputation of being a quality establishment. It is an institution that we have been proud of.

Unfortunately placing potted plants and stuff at the front door has detracted from any seriousness around this exhibition. That pretend garden (the most polite phrase I can use) sends a very wrong and very silly message.

Have a look at the photos above – do you look at these and imagine you are in the gardens of Versailles. What were they thinking? Very silly! A creative banner or two would have done the trick.

Any funds raised to pay for this pretend garden experience would have been better spent on purchases or even in freighting in some more art works for the exhibition.

Throughout the gallery you encounter all the expected banners and decorations. All fine. Sort of.


I suspect the shop will do fine – loads of goodies, books, wine and bling to buy.

But here’s another unforgivable crime. The gallery in all its wisdom has used an exhibition space (the former photography gallery) for the ticketing area.

There are other options available for this ticketing. To take away even more exhibition spaces is a crime – given the extent of the national collection sitting in storage – every space should be used for exhibitions.

I say this as the recent changes to the gallery have resulted in less exhibition spaces. Who is running the place?

The former foyer is bare – vacant and very unwelcoming – even the seating (where you used to meet people) has disappeared. The current management has lost the plot on the use of the spaces.

This is not a good look.


nothing beats the decision to move the shop away from the front foyer and to replace it with the NGA’s own playpen for children. Think of the costs to move the shop (that was in a specially architecturally design area with loads of storage behind). In doing so they  have also removed that very special exhibition space for the Nolan collection. All this expense only to build this play pen.

I dare not think of the daily costs to have the appropriate levels of staffing in attendance to ensure children are safe – I saw about five or so standing around trying to look busy. (so much for blaming the efficiency dividend?)

There’s a world wide movement called – “give museums back to the adults‘. There’s scope for a branch here given what the current NGA management has done in reducing the quiet spaces for engaging with art in order to please those who judge the gallery by the numbers that enter. In this case, the NGA management has opened a free play space to encourage loads of families in with children to boost the attendance numbers. What fakery! Parent will love it but will it advance the appreciation of the visual arts?

Did I mention those pots at the front door? What has happened to aesthetics at the NGA?

To finish on a positive. Be assured that there are many collection exhibitions that a worth a visit to the gallery. While the gallery places all the attention on main events (Versailles) – some fantastic visual arts exhibitions await you – for free.

Go now – as they are quiet and it is a good time to sit and take in the works in the wonderful national collections. Not so sure about some of the current contemporary art – but never mind, there’s heaps of other good stuff. Go visit and take your time.

for the previous post on the Versailles exhibition: click here

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