Long before Tracey Emin had the temerity to exhibit an unmade bed as a work of art, many people treated so-called modern art with contempt. "In The Gallery" runs to 6 minutes 16 seconds, and is an emphatic statement by Mark Knopfler to the effect that this contempt is well deserved. The song is also a tribute to his friend, Leeds artist Harry Phillips, who died in 1976, two years before Dire Straits released their eponymous debut album.
How Knopfler came to write this is revealed in Michael Oldfield's 1984 illustrated biography Dire Straits. After graduating from Leeds University, Knopfler moved to London to pursue a career in music. While there he spent quite a lot of time in the West End, and two other tracks from this album - "Wild West End" and "Lions" - had their genesis in his visits there. One day he visited an art gallery in Shaftesbury Avenue, and was not impressed by what he saw. According to band member John Illsey, the exhibits were laughable, and on the way back to their South London flat, Knopfler sat in the back of the car writing furiously. "I've just got to finish something off" he said as they arrived. He sat there for a further hour and a half, but it took a little longer to work out the music. According to Knopfler, it's all a big con which is subsidized by the public purse for "all the phonies and all of the fakes" while genuine artists like Harry Phillips are "Ignored by all the trendy boys in London and in Leeds" and live - and die - in obscurity.
Suggestion credit: Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 2