A couple weeks ago I took my baby to an art gallery in south London. I may have had second thoughts, but I did an interview with the new director for the Dulwich Picture Gallery in May and she told me galleries are alive – bring your baby!
We were in a long hallway, just opposite a room where a film was playing. I picked him up out of his push chair so he would have a better view. He pointed to abstract letters on the wall and posters in another language, calling out: cat, cow, dada, red, blue, amongst other words. I found his observations amusing, probably wholly because I’m his mother, but nonetheless it was abstract, so how insightful to hear his words.
So you can imagine my shock when a woman glared at him. She was intensely drawing on a sketchpad. Her dark hair perfectly tied back in a ponytail. A few strands of grey glimmering. Why she was sketching, I can only imaging for a foundation degree. But we weren’t exactly at a top gallery. And to be honest, I’d never heard of the artist.
“This is a gallery. I’m trying to get some work done,” she said.
I smiled at my baby. “Shh,” I said to him. This only made him giggle. He started making a ‘Ba, ba, ba’ noise. A happy noise someone said to me when I took him along to an interview the day before.
But the woman was having none of it. She insisted babies shouldn’t be at the gallery. Announcing it to the room. No one acknowledged her. But it left a bad taste in my mouth. We left within a couple minutes. I felt ashamed for taking him.
We crossed the street from the gallery. I put him back in his push chair and pushed him up the treelined Camberwell Grove. And as I did so, I couldn’t help but think: “Isn’t art all about humanity? Shouldn’t this person, who is studying art, applaud what a baby is seeing? He is seeing the world with new eyes? Isn’t that what artists, writers and musicians try to do every day?”
And with that I gave him a little kiss on the cheek. Not because of anything other than I was so pleased to have him.by