She also emphasises the modern museum’s importance as a “hub”, a “civic centre”, a place to help “mental health”. Certainly museums today are very attuned to the latter: “The Manchester Art Gallery has a mindfulness gallery in it, with a big sofa!” Does Douglas think that’s the way of the future? “I think that museums will support that going forward,” she replies. “But we will bring ourselves to the museum in all of our complexity.”
Of course Hamnett, a maverick in fashion circles for forty years, can afford to be looser-tongued. “Yeah, ‘pride in civic centre’, blah blah,” she says in her gravelly tones, when I flag up the same concerns, “but keep them alive! Keep them open!” It’s nearly 40 years since she came to prominence with her slogan t-shirts in the 1980s, and now, a huge art fan (“I bought my first antique at auction aged six, in Versailles”), she’s happily lending her signature style to the Choose Art campaign.
“I suppose I’m a port of call if you want a two-word T-shirt,” she drawls. She’d love it if Simon Schama wore one of her t-shirts to promote the cause: “He’s so wonderful,” she purrs. Anyone else? “Dua Lipa or somebody, don’t you think?”
Hamnett is also deliciously frank about fundraising: her T-shirts (from £60 upwards) will help, but she also tells me to put this in the piece: “Hello! Calling Big Donors!” And this is surely, obviously true, though Douglas points out that CAS relies on a whole variety of funders: “Donors in castles, and in trailer parks, and everywhere in between.”
The two continue to offset each other nicely when dwelling on the Government’s contribution to the ailing creative industries. If you heard Hamnett a few weeks ago on the Today programme, you’ll know already: “a bunch of crass morons, philistines, with no business sense,” is a choice sample today. As for Douglas, she is clearly disappointed but more tactful, when I ask if the May 17 date – the earliest museums are allowed to reopen – is late, considering gyms and shops look set to reopen in April.
“It’s hard to understand why the distinction has been made for museums, when they proved last year that they could be very safe for the public to visit… there was much more carefully observed social distancing than in a supermarket, for example. But, you know, we are where we are.”
Hamnett, meanwhile, says that she nearly created a t-shirt just saying ‘HELP’: “I thought, we’ll just go to one word, shall we?’” She imagines people lined up in T-shirts saying “Help! Choose Art!” Oh yes – or how about ‘More Art’? Suddenly, though, she’s truly serious. “Let’s just save the art that’s in existence – and look after the artists.”
The Choose Art campaign goes live today. Info: contemporaryartsociety.org