If its current contents are anything to go by, the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester must the dreariest museum in the world. This is not altogether surprising: its director, Maria Balshaw, and her deputy, Dominique Heyse-Moore, are typical apparatchiks of the contemporary cultural nomenklatura, who manage to combine the pleasures of intellectually conformist subversion (and the moral self-satisfaction that it invariably confers upon its practitioners) with those of a publicly funded high standard of living. The Whitworth Art Gallery is therefore an excellent place to study the dialectical relationship in the modern world between ideological monomania and opportunism.

The gallery stands on the Oxford Road in Manchester. There are two large universities along this road and the majority of pedestrians in it appear to be students. The street is astonishingly filthy and littered: one almost has to wade through the detritus of the million...

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