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Punning Purnell

Culture secretary James Purnell was on hilarious form at the unveiling of his big wad for Tate Modern last week.

Speaking about his department’s £50 million pledge to fund Herzog & de Meuron’s massive extension to the Bankside gallery, he said the only caveat DCMS placed on the generous gift was that the gallery ‘didn’t run off with it to South America.’ A topical tropical wisecrack. He went to say he hoped the £210 million addition would be opened in 2012 to coincide with other big things – comic pause – ‘the Queens’ Diamond Jubilee.’ Bingo. And all this just seconds after he’d told the audience he thought his department should consider listing Tate supremo Nick Serota because he was a ‘national treasure’. A comedy genius.

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