Why Lucian Freud deserves his own gallery The popularity of the Freud exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery confirms just how important it is to permanently preserve the work of this truly great artist for future generations
Master of truth ... detail from Lucian Freud's Self Portrait, Reflection. Photograph: Matthew Fearn/PA
As crowds continue to flock to Lucian Freud's exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery it is time to consider how Britain can continue to do justice to this great artist when the show closes and the news moves on.Freud was never a deliberately attention-grabbing artist, but the warm public response to his art since his death offers heartening evidence that true quality transcends fashion, publicity, and the white noise of cultural chatter.
I believe Britain should open a museum in his honour. I really mean it. There needs to be a Freud gallery that permanently preserves his work and provides future generations with a repository of his achievements. There is an obvious problem – I'll come to that – but also an imperative to make this happen.
Besides Freud is a truth-teller and who likes the truth? His uneasy portrayal of the human condition is a slap in all our faces.
A Lucian Freud gallery would do more than preserve his name. It would keep his shocking revelations about the raw stuff of humanity in our eyes forever, and stop us turning away in discomfort. The problem, of course, is that Freud's paintings are very valuable and scattered in private collections and museums. A public-funded gallery of his work would have to rely on loans, bequests, and aim to build up its collection over time. Yet that works for Tate Modern. If a building with buzz were created, and government support was permanent enough, it could take off. AnAbramovich might enjoy making a long-term loan to such an enterprise. Anyway, it is the right thing to do.
Freud's landmark exhibition has cut through the illusions and affirmed the reality of who, in British art, is truly great. We need to do everything possible to preserve this moment of truth.