Dire Straits – In The Gallery – Lyrics

Dire Straits – In The Gallery – Lyrics

In The Gallery

“In The Gallery” is the second song from the side two of the debut album by Dire Straits from 1978. This song is written by Mark Knopfler and is a critique of modern art and a tribute to his friend, Leeds artist Harry Phillips, who died in 1976, two years before Dire Straits released their eponymous debut album.

Harry Phillips was a father of Mark Knopfler’s friend and collaborator Steve Phillips and a figurative sculptor whose work was out of step with the abstract expressionism in favor of the art mainstream.

How Mark Knopfler came up 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 track from this album – “Wild West End,” and “Lions,” had their genesis in his visit there. One day he visited an art gallery in Shaftesbury Avenue and was not impressed by what he saw.

According to the band member John Illsley, 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 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.


Harry made a bareback rider proud and free upon a horse
And a fine coalminer, for the NCB that was
A fallen angel, and Jesus on the cross
A skating ballerina you should have seen her do the skater’s waltz

Some people have got to paint and draw
Harry had to work in clay and stone
Like the waves coming to the shore
It was in his blood and in his bones

He was ignored by all the trendy boys in London, yes and in Leeds
He might as well have been making toys or strings of beads
He couldn’t be
No, he couldn’t be
In the gallery

And then you get an artist says he doesn’t want to paint at all
He takes an empty canvas and sticks it on the wall
The birds of a feather all the phonies and all of the fakes

While the dealers, they get together
And they decide who gets the breaks
And who’s going to be
Who’s going to be
In the gallery

No lies, he wouldn’t compromise
No junk, no string
And all the lies we subsidize
They just don’t mean a thing

I’ve got to say he passed away in obscurity
And now all the vultures, they’re coming down from the tree
He’s going to be
He’s going to be
In the galle-, galle-, galle-, gallery
In the gallery

Harry made a bareback rider
Made a bareback rider

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