I always end up arguing with people about Meadowhall when it comes up in conversation. For those of you who have never been, Meadowhall is the vast temple of Mammon on the outskirts of Sheffield, indistinguishable from all the other out-of-town shopping centres located in areas of reclaimed industrial land. When it was originally proposed, the local planning authorities all said that Meadowhall would undermine the other shopping centres and they were right. Rotherham, Barnsley, Doncaster and Sheffield have all become poorer as a result.
“But at least you can park!” people say to me. Yes you can park, and now you have to.
Last week we went to The Hepworth gallery in Wakefield. We paid £5 for an hour and a half’s parking, but the exhibition was free. The day before we had paid £8 for three hours parking at Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP), but the exhibitions were free.
Actually no, it felt more like the exhibitions were included in the parking.
We also attempted to see the exhibition of Magali Reus’ work in the Hepworth’s new extension called The Calder. Unfortunately, the young man we met locking the door and leaving The Calder at 16.35 told us it had closed at 16.30, although the website says it opens until 5pm.
Yes, I know we could have stayed longer for those parking fees, but why would we if the exhibitions are closed? Both venues also also have nice cafés and a gift shops.
But the gallery spaces are actually the unproductive bits of these venues, so why open them at all? Why not just have a car park, a café and a gift shop and not bother with the gallery space or any art? We already have a working business model of places like that. They’re called garden centres.
Anyway, this leads me very conveniently to the Q-Park Charles Street car park, Sheffield, more commonly known as the “Cheesegrater“.
Even if you know cheaper or more convenient places to park, I can strongly recommend it as a visitor attraction, nestled in the heart of Sheffield with good transport links and local amenities. It’s quite expensive but probably no more than YSP, and the helter-skelter access tunnel is a dizzying experience, superior to most art films or installations.
The Cheesegrater lacks a gift shop but there are lots of cafés and bars nearby and, with an irony even more potent than I could have imagined myself, at street level there is a casino.
Where am I going with all of this? I’m not sure, but what I do know is that I don’t really give a flying fuck about the gift shop or the restaurant or the café or the education room. What I want is for the The Calder to be open for the 25 minutes before it was due to close. I also want the Graves Gallery in Sheffield to be open seven days a week rather than five days a week for only five hours a day so that I don’t keep being disappointed and can take full advantage of my parking fees.
The organised criminals that form our current government (and the previous one) thought it a good idea to prop up the incompetence of our banks with £375 billion of “quantitative easing” (QE). Unfortunately, they failed to regulate it sufficiently and the banks have used it to throw onto their own speculative bonfires instead of lending it to businesses as they were supposed to.
I haven’t done the maths, but a single billion of that could have kept all the UK’s galleries and libraries open with extended hours for years to come. And free parking.
So it’s business as usual for the banks whilst the rest of the world burns. But if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
It seems that at my age I have very little prospect of ever being invited to exhibit in The Hepworth or The Calder or The Graves, but I can show my work there if I think a little more laterally, and here is a donation I made to The Hepworth.
If the Bank of England can print money, so can I, and here is a One-X bank note, issued by The New Bank of X. Each one is unique and serialized, and I hope it will be invested wisely.
In the real world we would call this a stunt, but in the world of contemporary art it would be classed as an “intervention”, something that interrupts or questions the status quo of its context.
I have decided to call this intervention Qualitative Easing (QE+) and expect a lot more of it to come (free admission).
On the way out, I decided to donate another One-X note. Anyone who knows anything about collectors’ markets will tell you that a rare single is valuable, but a rare pair is worth more than double the value of just one.
Unless, of course, there are another 374,999,999,998 of them.
[This is an excerpt from a much longer article about the economics of art and the perceptions of value, but life is short and I have decided to publish in bits, as and when I can make it make sense.]