So off we trotted to the Ferens, to see where a £5.2m revamp and the £1.6m acquisition of a 14th-century painting by Pietro Lorenzetti gets you.
We’ve been in Rome, so everything seems small, especially a panel from an altarpiece. And the lighting ensures there’s an inescapable glare that means you have to look at Christ Between Saint Paul and Saint Peter side-on, or squint a lot, to actually see the thing properly. But I like it. And the pieces of work in the room around it provide the context to its value. Obviously the money would have been better spent on ensuring bin collections in the city are increased*.
The gallery does look and feel fab, I like the re-positioning of the shop and the entrance feels more welcoming and open but the Ferens also remains the familiar old place that we’ve slid around the floors of for years. Can’t help feeling that paint’s more expensive that when I last purchased any but whoever picked from the swatches at the DIY shop made the right choice of colour for the walls.
If this feels like a not very well-considered reflection on a multi-million pound reworking of a publicly funded asset, that’s because it is. We dashed in 90 minutes before closing time, and had one of those difficult to please child units with us who did, actually, embrace the hands-on, tactile offerings and things filled with coloured liquid (see above image) that wheelchair users are invited, by City of Culture volunteers, to ride over in the new space where the shop used to be. And as much as I love the essential open exhibition that’s on at the moment, I’m not sure if it shows the temporary exhibition spaces to their best effect.
We need to go back, and have a more mindful few hours in the place, really. But I’m impressed, generally, with its aceness. Go along when you’re next in the city – the Feren’s full of most excellent works of art and the place will surprise you.
*The reliability and quantity of bin collections by Hull City Council are the standard unit of measuring the worth of spend on artistic work in Hull.