07 March 2008

Tate Rage

The annual budget of Tate, the self-styled 'family' of British cultural leviathans in the field of the fine arts, is £Squillions per annum. Why oh why then, can they not seem to swing it so that their gallery staff pay mind to the fact that those funny people looking at the paintings are every bit as deserving of consideration as those thronging the bookshop/giftshop/caff/members room? Say you're in that lovely restaurant at the top of Tate Modern, sampling the fare, chatting to your companion, enjoying the fine view of Wren's masterpiece. And then, a pair of waiters come and stand next to your table and start discussing their work/life balance, or something equally important to them but of no remote interest to yourself. Would you put up with it? No. But then it would never happen.

While in Liverpool last week I had the third of three brain-splittingly frustrating experiences while trying to appreciate work in a Tate gallery. Each time I have been propelled to complain to the higher-ups about the plain stoopud, thoughtless, unfit-for-purpose conduct of staff they have hired to watch over the rooms in their galleries. And believe, I never complain about irritations - on the rationale that once you start, where do you stop? Modern life is not actually all that bad, but it is jam-stuffed with petty annoyances, some of which are pointoutable to the culprits, or often more pertinently the people who are responsible for their training and levels of job satisfaction. The situation in Tate Liverpool was rather like my fanciful Tate Modern example above, with the crucial difference that I was stood motionless in front of work in this room. I like abstract painting. I get a lot out of it, I find it challenging to what intellect I possess, it sometimes makes me laugh, sometimes puzzles me to the point of bewilderment, and it sometimes even moves me to tears. I can, however, have none of these reactions if I am one person of three in a room, and the other two - the staff responsible for looking after the gallery's interests, and those of the visitor - are having a work-related moan-fest a few feet away.
And don't get me started on the total inadequacy of the response when I tried to make a complaint on site. Tellingly, though, the immediate reflex was to agree that the staff's lack of good sense or whatever you'd call it was unacceptable, and to ask me to point the finger at the attendants involved. As last time, I refused, as my point was that the levels of staff awareness and sensitivity are surely the managers' responsibility. Grrr!

And no, of course, it hadn't escaped me that all of the above is in interesting relation to the below, the work diary of a man who might have been my grandfather. Education and culture. For what? All we need is love and shelter, I know.