Does anyone really touch the exhibits?

I came across this lovely exhibition by Claire Barclay (“Deep Spoils” – 24 March – 2 June) in The Mission Gallery, Swansea. The first thing the gallerist said to me was, “please don’t touch the installation; it’s supposed to be covered in soot”. To which I replied the customary, “I wouldn’t dream of it”, for it is not the first time I have been so advised. Maybe I’ve got that kind of face.

Understandable caution for small children perhaps but aren’t people conditioned not to go near the art? How many miles of coiled-rope barriers do we see in our galleries and museums?

But, as a matter of fact, I don’t mind people touching my paintings (most of them). Acrylic is tough as old boots – it’s near-as-damn-it liquid plastic – and a well-matured oil colour can stand a bit of mauling.

Maybe we should be a bit more tactile with art. I know a local painter of renown who recently sold a painting to a visually impaired gentleman. He just loved to touch it.