Published  10/05/2002

News from the Royal Academy


The Royal Academy, London, is much in the news. First of all, esteemed chairperson Sir Anthony Tennant has been under pressure to ‘do the gentlemanly thing’ and tender his resignation following his involvement in the New York auction scam which led to the conviction of Alfred Taubman, the former chairman of Sotheby’s. But then Christie’s always was the more ‘gentlemanly’ outfit of the two. Those who make ‘gentleman’s agreements’ over any kind of property transaction can never, nowadays, be taken any more seriously than those who bay for a gentleman’s blood. The Royal Academy has benefited from Tennant’s chairmanship in numerous ways — a question of ‘noblesse oblige’ for Tennant since there has been little benefit to himself, given that time is a limited resource. No one would expect Tennant to fly to New York ever again, or even suggest it — except, that is, former art dealer Roy Miles. The sculptor Michael Sandle has indicated that Tennant’s dignity would be preserved if (like a gentleman?) he would ‘fall on his sword’ (another quaint expression that emerges on such occasions). But then, swordstuck, he would be unable to assist the noble institution which he serves so altruistically. Another gentleman would have to be solicited for the post, or maybe — perish the thought — a ‘player’. A media player late of the BBC might be interested, for example, but the plight of the BBC speaks legions (as they say) for the results of not engaging gentlemen. ‘Gentlemen,’ as British Rail used to emblazon in their toilets, ‘lift the seat’. What better advice to all?

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